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Burr makes waterboarding joke at Brennan hearing

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr got a laugh from Senate colleagues with a waterboarding comment during Thursday's confirmation hearings for John Brennan, the president's choice to run the CIA.

"I will be brief because I notice you are on your fourth glass of water and I do not want to be accused of waterboarding you," Burr said, as he began questioning Brennan.

From the video clip, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and chair of the Senate intelligence committee appeared to think the remark quite witty, though it wasn't clear if she was the senator who responded with "That's a good one."

Brennan, by the way, does not seem to think water boarding is a joke. Asked about it during the hearing, he called the practice "reprehensible."

Burr 'disappointed' in Holder

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr told Attorney General Eric Holder that he is disappointed by the decision to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate potential CIA abuses in interrogating terrorism suspects.

Burr was one of nine Republican senators who sent a letter Monday to Holder questioning the decision, reports Barb Barrett. Holder made the appointment shortly after the release of an inspector general’s report from the Central Intelligence Agency. It reported that many interrogators appeared to go beyond the approved tactics in questioning suspects.

Last week, Burr and the other senators had warned Holder that such an investigation could threaten America’s security against future terrorist attacks and hurt the careers and reputations of interrogators.

They hinted Monday of the same threats.

"We fear that the true cost of this endeavor will be borne by the American people, who rely on the intelligence community, operating without distraction, to protect them from the many threats, known and unkonown, that our country faces in this post-9/11 world," they wrote.

Letters to Holder.pdf

Burr: Don't investigate CIA interrogators

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr wants U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to hold off on investigating CIA interrogators for suspected abuse of detainees.

Burr, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was one of nine Republicans signing a letter to Holder, who is reportedly considering an investigation, according to Congressional Quarterly.

In the letter, the senators say Holder ought to focus instead on investigating suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, reports Barb Barrett. And they argue that an investigation would send the wrong message to government interrogators.

“The intelligence community will be left to wonder whether actions taken today in the interest of national security will be subject to legal recriminations when the political winds shift,” the senators wrote.

A Senate investigation has shown that the Bush Justice Department gave authority to the CIA for harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, of detainees. But CQ reports that an upcoming Inspector’s General report will show that many interrogators went beyond those guidelines.

Burr: Mistake to release memos

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said he is disappointed that President Obama released memos from the Bush administration.

In an e-mail to Dome, the Winston-Salem Republican said that making public the memos from the Office of Legal Counsel supporting the brutal interrogation methods used by the CIA could hurt the troops and help terrorists.

"I am disappointed that the Administration chose, over the objections of some of our most respected intelligence experts, to selectively release for seemingly political purposes, highly classified OLC memos detailing the legal analysis relating to the CIA’s sensitive interrogation techniques," he said.

He also said that the torture methods outlined in a recent Senate Armed Services Committee report were "shocking," but they would not happen again.

"The unfortunate incidents outlined in the recently released Armed Services Committee report that occurred at some of our nation’s detention facilities were shocking and damaged our reputation in the global community, but measures have been taken to prevent occurrences like this from happening in the future," he said. 

Previously: Sen. Kay Hagan 'deeply concerned' by report. 

Into the 'Hall of Shame'

A group of anti-war protesters inducted U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge into their “Hall of Shame” on Monday.

Members of CodePink, a grassroots organization that has been conducting ongoing protests on Capitol Hill, delivered a certificate to the office of Etheridge, a Lillington Democrat, and eight other House members and six senators, reports Barb Barrett.

Terri Rourk Parham, a member from Wilmington, said the group was upset that Etheridge has not spoken out against a private company in his district with suspected ties to the CIA.

“Johnston County is where they have all the flights taking off for the CIA’s black-ops sites,” Parham said. “His quote has been, ‘It’s not my issue, or ‘It’s not my problem.’”

Aero Contractors of Smithfield rents private aircraft with pilots, and has been reportedly tied to CIA-backed flights to detention sites overseas.

Joanne Peters, Etheridge’s spokeswoman, said the congressman was not in Washington when the protesters stopped by, so they met with Etheridge’s legislative director instead.

“They expressed their concerns to him, and he listened to them,” Peters said.

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