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Charles Schumer quieter than Democratic colleagues on Senate CIA report

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer on Sunday, Oct.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

WASHINGTON -- Unlike many of his Democratic colleagues who praised the release Tuesday of a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA use of torture on terror detainees, Sen. Charles Schumer took a pass.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) lauded Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), committee chairwoman and sponsor of the Democrats' review, but said "an extensive report like this one deserves careful consideration, and I will examine it very closely."

His muted response should not be a surprise. Since the 1993 bombing of New York's World Trade Center, Schumer has been hawkish on methods for the war on terrorism.

In a 2004 Senate hearing, he defended using torture on detainees, saying it might be necessary to coerce a terrorist to reveal, for example, the hidden location of a ticking nuclear bomb.

"I think there are probably very few people in this room or in America who would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake," he said. "So it's easy to sit back in the armchair and say that torture can never be used," Schumer said.

"But when you're in a foxhole, it's a very different deal. I think we all respect the fact that the president's in the foxhole every day," Schumer added, in defense of then-President George W. Bush.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) defended waterboarding and other extreme measures as legal and effective. He said the report shouldn't have been written or released. "We should give medals to every CIA officer who participated," he said.

King said President Barack Obama should rescind his ban on the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that he outlawed in 2009. "They are entirely legal, and it's necessary," King said. "If I have a choice between 500,000 people being killed and holding a guy's head under water, I would choose holding a guy's head under water." Rep.-elect Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said he is skeptical of the report's conclusion that the methods failed to produce plot-thwarting intelligence.

But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) both applauded the release of the report and said torture is un-American.

"We must learn the lessons of this report and never resort to torturing prisoners ever again," Gillibrand said. Israel said, "The United States of America should never devalue or demean ourselves by resorting to the tactics of our enemies in the world."

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