Panelists Howard Dean and Nicolle Wallace got into a heated debate on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday over the right of Americans to know about interrogation policies used to question suspected terrorists versus allowing the government to do whatever was necessary to keep the country safe.
The discussion centered around the heavily redacted Senate Intelligence Committee's 6,000-page report, due for release Tuesday that is expected to detail brutal interrogation practices the CIA used on al-Qaida suspects following the 9/11 terror attacks.
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Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, said the report was a "big deal" because "we purport in this country to be sort of a moral beacon, and our standard of behavior has to be higher than the people who we're preaching to."
Wallace, who served as communications director for President George W. Bush, countered that it was important to allow officials to implement policies that would keep the country safe.
"I pray to God that, until the end of time, we do whatever we have to do to find out what's happening. And, the notion that this somehow makes America less great is asinine and dangerous," Wallace said.
Dean stressed the need for open discussion about the practices, since they helped to define the nation's moral principles.
"All I want out of this report is I want the American people to decide for themselves whether this is a good idea or not — not some closed government that keeps this stuff secret," Dean responded. "This is about what kind of country we have and what kind of human beings we are."
Controversy has surrounded the release of the report under fears it would endanger American lives overseas, and officials on Tuesday placed U.S. embassies around the world on high alert.
While defending the release of the report, Dean said he also supported Obama's drone policy, adding it was a "gross exaggeration" to say drones were commonly dropped on houses to kill anyone inside in order to find one terrorist.
At that point, "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough stepped into the conversation and maintained that most Americans wanted policies that kept them safe.
"My point is that the American people support these type of activities," Scarborough said. "Whatever it takes. Keep the country safe. You can look at it, whether it's a drone policy, whether it's NSA, at the end of the day, keep us safe."
Scarborough, a former Florida Republican congressman, said the "most offensive thing" about the release of the report would be for lawmakers to appear appalled at the findings in it since they were briefed ahead of time as to the interrogation practices.
"They briefed liberals. They briefed conservatives. And, everybody said in 2002, 'OK. Yeah, OK.' And, some even asked, 'Is this all you can do?'" he said. "I hope these senators and congressmen that were there getting briefed and were all for it show a little bit of class today."
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