John McCain is often called many things for many reasons (we will not get into them now). But one thing you must respect Mr. McCain for is the many years he spent in captivity while flying bombing missions in the Vietnam war. John McCain was a prisoner of war and faced bouts of torture from his captors.
So when McCain talks about torture, it would be a wise idea to listen to someone with first hand knowledge. In a Washington Post op-ed written on Thursday, McCain responded to the claims of many in his own Republican party that intelligence gathered under torture led to Osama Bin Laden’s capture. Mr. McCain spoke about some of the acts employed by United States personnel, namely water-boarding;
Much of this debate is a definitional one: whether any or all of these methods constitute torture. I believe some of them do, especially waterboarding, which is a mock execution and thus an exquisite form of torture. As such, they are prohibited by American laws and values, and I oppose them.
After stating his personal feelings on water-boarding, Mr. McCain – the Republican 2008 Presidential nominee and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee – dove into the debate head-on, saying that any claims by former Bush officials that torture led to Bin Laden’s capture were “false.”
But this must be an informed debate. Former attorney general Michael Mukaseyrecently claimed that “the intelligence that led to bin Laden . . . began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information — including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden.” That is false.
I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.
This must be shocking news for those on Fox News and most of the Republican leaders, who, on the Sunday talk shows had a field day promoting the lie that torturing Khalid Sheik Mohammed revealed the name of the courier to Osama Bin Laden. Instead of accepting the fact that Bin Laden was captured on President’s Obama’s watch, these partisan Republican leaders got their talking points from Fox News, and ran with it.
Mr. McCain continued;
In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.
One of the claims John McCain made in the 2008 presidential election was that he was still a maverick. Well you can’t get more mavericky than this.
At a time when Republicans are looking for any kind of victory, even trying to take one away from a Democratic President, one Republican is standing up and speaking the truth – a rare act. And for that, John McCain has regained his maverick status.
Hopefully, it’ll stick around for a while.