McCain vs. Bush: GOP Battle Over Torture, Detainees

ByABC News
September 17, 2006, 9:42 AM

Sept. 17, 2006 — -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., defended his opposition to White House-approved terror-detainee legislation Sunday, instead supporting a measure that provides for the detention and trial of terrorist suspects that the president has vowed to defeat.

"This is a matter or conscience, an American conscience," McCain told ABC News in an exclusive appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "Are we going to be like the enemy, or are we going to be the United States of America?"

On Friday, President Bush argued that CIA-led detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists was essential to fighting the war on terror.

"Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland," Bush told reporters in a Rose Garden press conference. "By giving us information about terrorist plans we couldn't get anywhere else, this program has saved innocent lives."

In June, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-3 decision that military commissions for certain detainees at Guantanamo Bay violated both the military code of justice and the Geneva Conventions, a series of international laws constructed after World War II to set the standard for the humanitarian treatment of prisoners of war.

As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, the president was forced to turn to Congress in order to find a way to detain and try some of the world's most notorious terror suspects.

Some Republicans, including McCain and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., rejected the president's proposal, which would have revised the Geneva Conventions to withhold classified evidence from suspects at trial and, more significantly, would not jeopardize interrogation tactics that some deem harsh or inhumane.

"I'm not saying we should shut down the program," McCain told Stephanopoulos, ABC News' chief Washington correspondent. "We should be very aware that if we engage in these activities the world will condemn us and we will lose the high ground. And then what happens to Americans who are captured in future wars?"