Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) broke ranks with Senate Republicans and supported release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture yesterday, arguing that the report doesn’t “tell the world something it will be shocked to learn” and that the American people are entitled to the truth.
“The entire world already knows that we water-boarded prisoners,” said McCain. “It knows we subjected prisoners to various other types of degrading treatment. It knows we used black sites, secret prisons. Those practices haven’t been a secret for a decade.”
“What might come as a surprise, not just to our enemies but to many Americans, is how little these practices did to aid our efforts to bring 9/11 culprits to justice and to find and prevent terrorist attacks today and tomorrow,” said McCain. “That could be a real surprise since it contradicts the many assurances provided by intelligence officials, on the record and in private, that enhanced interrogation techniques were indispensable in the war against terrorism ...”
McCain suffered severe torture as a prisoner-of-war at the hands of the North Vietnamese. He was bound with ropes and subjected to beatings every two hours, and at one point even gave a false “confession.” He said that he has “long believed” what the CIA was doing “amounted to torture, as a reasonable person would define it, especially, but not only the practice of waterboarding, which is a mock execution and an exquisite form of torture.”
“Contrary to assertions made by some of its defenders and as the Committee's report makes clear, [torture] produced little useful intelligence to help us track down the perpetrators of 9/11 or prevent new attacks and atrocities,” said McCain.
McCain: “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering.”
McCain said he knows, from first-hand experience, that “bad things happen in war” and that “good people can feel obliged for good reasons to do things they would normally object to and recoil from…. But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear were neither in the best interests of justice, nor our security, nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend."
Throughout his long Senate career, and during his run for President, McCain consistently held that torture was ineffective and inhumane: "I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn't about our enemies; it's about us. It's about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It's about how we represent ourselves to the world.”
McCain added: "When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea...that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights…. Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”