Transcript: Sen. John McCain

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you signed on to a very harsh report, out of the Senate Armed Services Committee, this week, on the torture of detainees across the military prison system. And you said this wasn't just the work of a few bad apples. In fact, you laid direct responsibility of Secretary of Defense -- former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Listen to this: "Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. It conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely." His spokesman called these allegations "unfounded." How do you respond to that, first of all? And, number two, how should the secretary of defense be held accountable for this?

MCCAIN: I don't know. I think history, obviously, will render very harsh judgment about this whole detainee treatment situation, whether additional action is called for. I think, as a member of the -- ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, that we've done our job. Let me just tell you a brief story. Not that long ago, a year and a half ago, Senator Lindsey Graham and I were in Iraq. We were in the prison. The general, our U.S. general in charge of prison had us in a secluded area and met a former high-ranking member of Al Qaida, one of the toughest guys I've ever seen. I said, how did you succeed so well after the initial American victory? He said, "Two things" -- he said, "One" -- he said, "there was no control by your troops. It was total lawlessness. There was rape, looting, pillage, murder, settling of old scores. So there was lawlessness." "Second, the greatest recruiting tool we had -- we were able to recruit thousands of young men," he said, "was Abu Ghraib." So you can't underestimate the damage that our treatment of prisoners, both at Abu Ghraib and other...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But some look at that and say...

MCCAIN: ... harmed our national security interests.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some look at that and say, because of that, there should be a special prosecutor looking into all the crimes that were committed, and no one should be exempted from that.

MCCAIN: Well, look, that's not my job. If overwhelming evidence indicates indicates that, that's fine. But the point is, I thought, and Senator Levin did, that we should carry out our responsibilities in the Senate Armed Services Committee and do a thorough and complete investigation. I'm not that interested in looking back. What I am interested in and committed to is making sure we don't do it again. We're in this long twilight struggle here, and so America's prestige and image, as we all know, was damaged by these stories of mistreatment. And we've got to make sure the world knows that that's not the United States of America that they knew and appreciated for centuries.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me switch to the politics of the Republican Party. You said, after the election, that Governor Palin has a bright future in your party. Does that mean that, if she does chooses to run for president, she can count on your support?

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