The only Navy SEAL in congress slammed Democrats for putting troops at risk by publishing Tuesday’s torture report.
Representative-elect and former Navy Commander Ryan Zinke (R., Mt.) said that the report authored by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats "caused harm" for soldiers and sailors deployed overseas.
"Did the report put troops abroad at risk? It did. It put our allies at risk who let us use their sites," he said. "It’s jeopardized our relationship with allies and jeopardizes U.S. personnel abroad."
Zinke is a retired commander who served on the elite SEAL Team 6 and the first SEAL elected to the House of Representatives. His criticism came one day after former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D., Neb.), the first Navy SEAL elected to the Senate, slammed the partisan nature of the report in a USA Today op-ed.
"In the war against global Jihadism, human intelligence and interrogation have become more important, and I worry that the partisan nature of this report could make this kind of collection more difficult," Kerrey wrote. "I do not need to read the report to know that the Democratic staff alone wrote it. The Republicans checked out early when they determined that their counterparts started out with the premise that the CIA was guilty and then worked to prove it."
Zinke echoed these statements. The report failed to acknowledge "the context of the true threat" of terrorism, as well as enhanced interrogation’s ability "to protect American lives and soldiers on the battlefield," he said. He added that the report highlighted some important issues about the CIA’s handling of suspected terrorists and the lack of accountability at the agency.
"Our first priority is to make sure Congress has oversight [on the CIA]. Look at the IRS or Fast and Furious or Benghazi. The common theme is that Congress must exercise its constitutional duty to hold every agency accountable. The CIA isn’t alone," Zinke said.
The congressman took issue with the fact that Senate Democrats used the report to chase headlines, rather than institute actual reforms.
"I think the report shouldn’t have been released … it should have been a white paper," he said.
The political handling of military affairs, from rules of engagement, to micromanagement of low-level officers, and military culture, are devoid of the interests and effectiveness of "our people who get the job done," according to Zinke. He plans to provide that perspective when he is sworn into office and assumes his position on the House Armed Services Committee.
"I’m going to push back against making decisions based on politics, rather than what is right for the mission," he said. "When it comes to the battlefield, it’s the military’s job to win and win decisively."
He was wary of political games during his time in the Navy and disagreed wholeheartedly with the "hand tying micromanagement" he and his team were forced to abide. Zinke wants to limit the scope of the rules of engagement to give soldiers flexibility in the fight and protect them from prosecution "for making a judgment call" on the battlefield.
"It’s causing a loss of life," he said.
Zinke is more motivated than ever to carry the banner for soldiers; his daughter is a retired Navy diver, his son-in-law an active duty SEAL.
"You don’t fight wars with admirals and generals. I’m going to champion the enlisted and junior leadership … our people who get the job done," he said.