ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports: Arizona Sen. John McCain, a former POW who was tortured for years at the hands of Vietnamese captors, delivered an impassioned argument today that so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” did not produce intelligence leading to Osama bin Laden.
“It was not torture, or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden,” McCain said in a stirring 22-minute speech from the Senate floor.
McCain called the techniques – implemented by CIA interrogators during the George W. Bush administration and later barred by President Obama – “indisputably torture,” and said waterboarding amounted to a “mock execution.”
“I do not believe they are necessary to our success in our war against terrorists, as the advocates of these techniques claim they are,” he said.
McCain directly criticized former Attorney General Michael Mukasey for publicly suggesting recently that waterboarding of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed led investigators to the courier who ferried information to and from bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
Mukasey has said Mohammed “broke like a dam” during the 183 waterboardings performed on him.
“That is false,” McCain said, citing a report from CIA director Leon Panetta who said the courier’s identity was obtained elsewhere.
Waterboarding KSM “actually produced false and misleading information,” McCain said, explaining that Mohammed’s information on the courier was ultimately proven incorrect.
“In my personal experience, the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence, but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear –- whether it is true or false –- if he believes it will relieve his suffering,” he said.
McCain argued the harsh interrogation techniques more fundamentally degrade “our national character and historical reputation” and put American soldiers at greater risk of torture in the future.
“I know that Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organization do not share our scruples about the treatment of enemy combatants,” he said. “But we must bear in mind the likelihood that some day we will be involved in a more conventional war against a state and not a terrorist movement or insurgency and be careful that we do not set a standard that another country could use to justify their mistreatment of our prisoners.”
“Ultimately this debate is about far more than technical or practical issues,” said McCain. “It is about far more than whether torture works or does not work. It is about far more than utilitarian matters. Ultimately, this is about morality.”
“We are America, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard,” he said.
McCain also wrote about his opposition to “enhanced interrogation techniques” in an op-ed in today’s Washington Post.