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Potential 2016 candidates divided on Senate's CIA torture report

The Senate Intelligence Committee lit a political firestorm on Tuesday with its release of a report documenting the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation methods on terrorist suspects in the aftermath of 9/11. And while the immediate controversy surrounding the report's release will eventually subside, its political shadow could stretch well into 2016, as potential presidential candidates begin staking out a response.

So far, the biggest players aren't exactly leaping at the opportunity to opine.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who dominates the potential Democratic field, has not commented publicly on the matter since the report's release. And several Republicans in the top tier of potential candidates have been similarly reticent, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Florida, Gov. Chris Christie, R-New Jersey, Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

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The Democrats who have weighed in have generally defended the decision to release the report, which clearly labeled the controversial interrogation techniques torture, concluded they did not yield any intelligence that could not have been obtained through other means, and accused the CIA of misleading Congress and the American public about their utility. Some disagreement among Democrats remains, though, on whether the people involved in the program should be held accountable.

Vice President Joe Biden welcomed the report's release during Politico summit on Tuesday, calling it a "badge of honor" for the U.S.

"Every country has engaged in activities somewhere along the line that it has not been proud of," he said. "But think about it, name me another country that's prepared to stand and say, 'This was a mistake, we should not have done what we done, and we will not do it again.'"

Gov. Martin O'Malley, D-Maryland, who has staked out a space for himself on the left wing of the party as he mulls a bid, called for the Department of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor to probe the interrogations.

"I think there needs to be some accountability so this doesn't happen again," O'Malley told the New York Times.

During a speech at the Council of Foreign Relations this summer before the report was released, Clinton said the American people "deserve to see" the report, but she added that the people involved in enhanced interrogations should not be prosecuted for "doing what they were told to do."

A handful of potential Democratic longshots have weighed in as well. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said the report documents an "ugly chapter in American history during which our leaders and the intelligence community dishonored our nation's proud traditions."

"A great nation must be prepared to acknowledge its errors," he said in a statement. "The United States must not engage in torture."

And former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, the only candidate who has taken a formal step toward entering the 2016 race, offered only questions in response to the report on Twitter: "Were these acts individual, institutional, or national policy? Did intelligence committee use its oversight power?"

Republicans who sounded off, for their part, were sharply critical of the committee's decision to release the report over the objections of the intelligence community, warning the release could imperil U.S. national security.

"Those who served us in aftermath of 9/11 deserve our thanks not one sided partisan Senate report that now places American lives in danger," tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, on Tuesday after the report's release.

"We are concerned that this release could endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardize U.S. relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies," added Rubio in a subsequent joint statement with Idaho Sen. Jim Risch. "Simply put, this release is reckless and irresponsible."

How will the CIA torture report affect foreign relations?

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Arkansas, who ran for the White House in 2008 and has said he's considering another bid in 2016, slammed the report in a statement as a "highly partisan attack on a previous administration," according to the New York Times. Huckabee said the report's release "puts Americans at grave risk as it fuels propaganda efforts of radical Islamic terror groups and sympathizers already trying to destroy our nation."

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who has championed a less aggressive foreign policy, opted for a somewhat softer tone, underscoring his opposition to the use of torture in an interview with Politico while also questioning the wisdom behind publicizing the ugly details of past conduct.

"Transparency is mostly good for government," he said. "The only thing I would question is whether or not the actual details, the gruesomeness of the details, will be beneficial or inflammatory."

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