President Obama’s 2008 presidential opponent asserted Sunday that he agrees with former Vice President Cheney in opposing the Justice Department’s review of whether any CIA officers engaged in any actions during interrogations of detainees that didn’t comply with legal advice at the time.
But he also spoke firmly against the enhanced interrogation techniques that Cheney so strongly asserted made the country safer.
“I think it's a mistake,” McCain said of Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement last week that he would open a preliminary review to see if laws were violated with the use of some interrogation techniques. “I think in the future we'll find that's a mistake.”
McCain told CBS’s Face the Nation that he worries “about the morale and effectiveness of the CIA” and that even thought Holder caution this was a preliminary review, not an investigation, it might get “out of control” and harm the US government’s “ability to carry on the struggle that we're in with radical Islamic extremism.”
That said, McCain said he “was radically opposed” to the enhanced interrogation techniques the CIA used during the Bush administration.
“I think it harmed us,” he said, “I think torturing harmed us.”
McCain went so far as to say some of the interrogations in question violated international law.
They “were in violation of the Geneva Convention against torture that we ratified under President Reagan,” McCain said. “I think that these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaeda recruit. I got that from an al Qaeda operative in a prison camp in Iraq who told me that. I think that the ability of us to work with our allies was harmed. And so — and I believe that information according to the FBI and others could have been gained through other methods.”
McCain said he spoke with the formerly high-ranking al Qaeda operative at Camp Bucca in Iraq.
“I said, ‘How did you succeed so well in Iraq after the initial invasions?’” McCain recalled. “He said two things. One, the chaos that existed after the initial invasion, there was no order of any kind. Two, he said ‘Abu Ghraib pictures allowed me and helped me to recruit thousands of young men to our cause.’ Now that's al Qaeda.”
McCain also said, presumably from his first hand experience as a Vietnam War prisoner of war, “if you inflict enough pain on anyone, they'll tell you anything to make the pain stop. So you not only get perhaps right information but you also get a lot of wrong information.”