John McCain: Great American. Lousy senator. Terrible Republican.

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That’s how radio talk show host and law professor Hugh Hewitt has been describing Senator McCain for years.

Tuesday, Senator Feinstein finally saw the release of her Majority Views “Torture” Report. Absent from the 5 year investigation is any participation from Republicans who sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee. They perceived the Feinstein investigation as a partisan exercise. So what we’re left with, absent the Minority Views Report, is a non-bipartisan (re: partisan), $40 million investigation tinted and tainted by a Democrat’s worldview lens in interpreting the information they used to draw up the Report.

Senator Feinstein spoke yesterday on the Senate floor for an hour defending her tortured Report. She was joined by Senator McCain:

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a former GOP presidential nominee and prisoner of war who was tortured in North Vietnam, rose to Feinstein’s defense Tuesday in opposition to his own party, citing “personal knowledge of torture’s inefficacy.”

McCain said the report’s release reminds the country that “we are always American, different, and better than those who would destroy us.”

As a former Vietnam POW, who experienced brutal treatment and real torture at the hands of his captives, McCain’s words carry weight and influence with most mainstream Americans:

In a nearly 15-minute speech from the Senate floor, McCain offered what is arguably the most robust defense so far of the report’s release, referencing his own experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and rebuking his Republican colleagues by endorsing the study’s findings.

~~~

most poignantly, McCain spoke of his own five-and-a-half-year captivity in Vietnam to argue that torture fails to yield credible information.

“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering.”

I’m sorry, but with all due respect to the great American, lousy senator, and terrible Republican, Senator McCain reveals his lack of understanding in the role EITs played in CIA interrogations. “Torture”, if you will, was not applied in order to illicit law enforcement confessions or extract information. Questions were not asked during an enhanced interrogation session that the CIA did not already know the answers to. EITs were meant to bring about a state of cooperation, after which the real mining for intelligence information would begin during debriefing.

McCain added (emphatically) that “the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights.”

Basic human rights? OK. Signatory or not to the GCs, everyone has basic rights. What captured terrorists don’t deserve, however, is the kind of protections afforded to lawful, uniformed soldiers. Why not? Because to grant terrorists POW status is to undermine part of the purpose of the GCs, which is to protect innocent civilians.

The GCs give maximum protection to non-combatants- innocent civilians. The next level of protection is afforded to fighters who obey the laws of war. The least amount of protection is given to those fighters who do not obey the rules. The GCs operates on an incentive system. Giving terrorists the same privileges as that of lawful soldiers removes the incentive not to blend in with an innocent civilian populace, putting civilians at greater risk of being harmed.

I had written previously on McCain’s hallowed status as a Vietnam POW, when he used it as an aegis in delivering a 2011 op-ed, criticizing EITs as amounting to “torture”. Back then, I wrote:

John McCain is intimately familiar with torture, having endured it at the hands of his Vietnamese captors during his years as a POW.

But he was never waterboarded. Not by the Spanish Inquisition. Not by the Japanese military. Not by the restrictive nature of the program as run by our CIA. And to be clear, he was tortured not to extract information that might save lives; he was tortured out of cruelty for torture’s sake; and he was tortured to elicit a false confession for propaganda purposes. EITs are not used to obtain either confessions or information.

Nor was McCain ever an interrogator. Not in the FBI. Not in the military. Not in the CIA.

Yet McCain, like “Matthew Alexander” (Anthony Camarino), commands “authority” and respect on the topic matter because of their respective experiences.

The CIA interrogators involved in the program that used EITs on 30 out of 100 high value detainees that came into their hands (the other 2/3rds having received standard interrogation practices) are not at liberty to write books nor defend themselves from slander and distortions in the media; nor are they free to counter Alexander’s testimony that comes buttressed with credible experience as a successful military interrogator.

Since the release of the Feinstein Report, I now know the number to be 119 HVDs. Apparently, the number of detainees who experienced EITs is more than 30, as well.

In Marc Thiessen’s book, Courting Disaster, the former Bush speech writer does a great job at trying to rectify the misperceptions and distortions regarding the nature of the CIA program that has been so relentlessly villified.

In one chapter (read pages 158-164), Thiessen also includes the opinions of 3 distinguished former Vietnam POWs to counteract the opinion of John McCain.

George Everett Day, Leo Thorsness, Jeremiah Denton are highly decorated war veterans and former POWs who experienced terrible torture at the hands of their captors. They scoff at the notion that what the CIA subjected their detainees to, up to and including waterboarding, even remotely amounts to their definition of torture.

I think Republicans and those who feel the CIA acted in good faith, and who acted honorably to defend our country, and who perceive the Majority Views Report as a politically partisan investigation, should still take the information within the Report seriously. We on the right do ourselves a disservice to dismiss outright the findings in the Feinstein Report. Stories like this one are sad. Of course, mistakes are made, as in all wars. And we should own up to them, where they occur. I have a difficult time, however, believing that we owe ourselves and the world any kind of apology, however, for the overall CIA program. As Noah Rothman points out:

There are aspects of the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s (SPSCI) report on the CIA’s Bush-era enhanced interrogation techniques and their efficacy that are unequivocally disturbing. The report alleges wrongful deaths at the hands of CIA operators, the detention and mistreatment of innocent people, and elaborate physical punishments inflicted on terror suspects resulting in lasting ailments.

Some of these practices and certainly the allegation that the CIA intentionally misled those responsible for its oversight are deeply disturbing. War, however, is hell, and America was and remains engaged in a war in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. in which nearly 3,000 innocent civilians were killed.

It is a war that took the lives of 169 Americans, Swedes, Danes, Britons, Indonesians and Australians when Jemaah Islamiyah attacked a tourist attraction in Bali in 2002. It is a war that spread to Spain in March of 2004 when al-Qaeda operatives killed 191 and wounded 1,800 more when they detonated a series of explosives onboard a Madrid commuter train. In 2005, the war engulfed London when a terror attack on buses and subway cars killed 52 civilians and wounded 700 more. It was a war that involved tens of thousands of Western soldiers fighting on battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands of those troops gave their lives in the effort to ensure that those who would execute similar attacks on Western targets never had the opportunity to leave that volatile region.

Noting the realities above is not designed to either excuse or explain the excesses in which the CIA is accused of engaging, but merely to provide some of the context which has been lost in all the moral posturing over the SPSCI’s report. It is possible to be both outraged over the claim that the nation’s intelligence agency abused the public trust and damaged America’s standing abroad while simultaneously acknowledging the importance and complexities of their mission.

In another previous post, I copied something Marc Thiessen wrote in his book, Courting Disaster:

In the opening prologue to Kill or Capture, Alexander talks about how legendary WWII-era interrogators stuck to American values and principles, never resorting to torture. Well, guess what? The very best American interrogators- including Alexander, Soufan, and those directly involved in the CIA enhanced interrogation program- also uphold American values and principles; and also do not believe in the effectiveness of torture.

Incidentally, according to Eisenhower and the German POWs by Stephen Ambrose and Gunter Bishhof, as many as 56,000 German POWs- about 1% of the total numbers captured by war’s end- may have died while in U.S. custody. Contrast this with the .125% in today’s GWoT: Human Rights First reported in a 2006 study that since August of 2002, 100 detainees held by the CIA and the U.S. military had died while in captivity (According to military records, 34 of these are suspected or confirmed homicides). According to Department of Defense figures, by 2006, over 80,000 have been held under U.S. custody in the War on Terror.

Why do I bring this up? Because I feel that in today’s world we make mountains out of mole hills. That any transgression that comes to light is given so much media attention that it becomes disproportionate to the overall context. Everything becomes hyperbolic.

I am hoping to find the time to go through the actual reports- both the majority and minority views.

66 Responses to “John McCain: Great American. Lousy senator. Terrible Republican.”

  1. 52

    Greg

    @Common+Sense, #43:

    Greggie, please indicate to me what law was broken at the time!! Remember I need proof!!

    I’ve posted the link to the law that was broken around half-a-dozen times over the last few days. The explanation of what the criminal act is should be clear enough for anyone to understand; the explanation of who the law applies to and where it applies is equally clear.

    I have yet to hear any remotely convincing argument from anyone here as to why Bush or Cheney should be considered above the law in connection with their “enhanced interrogation” program. The facts are simple and straightforward: They established an illegal interrogation program; prisoners died under interrogation. On top of that, evidence documenting what was done was systematically destroyed. What I’ve heard in response are evasions; attempts to shift the subject to drone strikes or abortion.

  2. 53

    Redteam

    @clint:

    Looks like we go to the left fast under dems and go to the left a little slower under RINOS.

    You are probably correct. I remember back in ’96 during the election that Rush Limbaugh said the difference in the Dims and Rep’s were that the Dims wanted socialism NOW but the Repubs are satified to let it take a little longer to get to the same place. Seems as if less and less are interested in the concept of Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For some reason, everyone wants ‘control’ of everyone. It’s all about the superrich wanting more and more.

  3. 54

    Redteam

    @Greg:

    convincing argument from anyone here as to why Bush or Cheney should be considered above the law

    rather feeble argument about the President being above the law when we have Mr. Usurper himself in the office at the present time. Because a president can issue an executive order that says he can do whatever he pleases, whenever he pleases. Ask Obozo. Maybe Bush issued an executive order exempting himself and Cheney from any law about interrogation. And then of couse he issued another executive order requiring the first one to be kept secret. Wouldn’t that make it legal? Answer truthfully Greg.

  4. 55

    Wordsmith

    editor

    @Greg:

    I’ve posted the link to the law that was broken around half-a-dozen times over the last few days. The explanation of what the criminal act is should be clear enough for anyone to understand; the explanation of who the law applies to and where it applies is equally clear.

    And yet after several investigations over the years, including the last one by Eric Holder in 2009 seeking the possibility of prosecuting even one individual:

    Statement of Attorney General Eric Holder on Closure of Investigation into the Interrogation of Certain Detainees

    The Attorney General announced today the closure of the criminal investigations into the death of two individuals while in United States custody at overseas locations. Below is some background on the investigation and the Attorney General’s statement.

    BACKGROUND ON INVESTIGATION:

    On Jan. 2, 2008, Attorney General Michael Mukasey selected Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) John Durham of the District of Connecticut to conduct a criminal investigation into the destruction of interrogation videotapes by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

    On Aug. 24, 2009, based on information the Department received pertaining to alleged CIA mistreatment of detainees, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he had expanded Mr. Durham’s mandate to conduct a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations. Attorney General Holder made clear at that time, that the Department would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees. Accordingly, Mr. Durham’s review examined primarily whether any unauthorized interrogation techniques were used by CIA interrogators, and if so, whether such techniques could constitute violations of the torture statute or any other applicable statute.

    In June of last year, the Attorney General announced that Mr. Durham recommended opening full criminal investigations regarding the death of two individuals while in United States custody at overseas locations, and closing the remaining matters. The Attorney General accepted that recommendation. Today, the Attorney General announced that those two investigations conducted over the past year have now been closed.

    ATTORNEY GENERAL STATEMENT :

    “AUSA John Durham has now completed his investigations, and the Department has decided not to initiate criminal charges in these matters. In reaching this determination, Mr. Durham considered all potentially applicable substantive criminal statutes as well as the statutes of limitations and jurisdictional provisions that govern prosecutions under those statutes. Mr. Durham and his team reviewed a tremendous volume of information pertaining to the detainees. That review included both information and matters that were not examined during the Department’s prior reviews. Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths, the Department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

    “During the course of his preliminary review and subsequent investigations, Mr. Durham examined any possible CIA involvement with the interrogation and detention of 101 detainees who were alleged to have been in United States custody subsequent to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He determined that a number of the detainees were never in CIA custody. Mr. Durham identified the matters to include within his review by examining various sources including the Office of Professional Responsibility’s report regarding the Office of Legal Counsel memoranda related to enhanced interrogation techniques, the 2004 CIA Inspector General’s report on enhanced interrogations, additional matters investigated by the CIA Office of Inspector General, the February 2007 International Committee of the Red Cross Report on the Treatment of Fourteen ‘High Value Detainees’ in CIA Custody, and public source information.

    “Mr. Durham and his team of agents and prosecutors have worked tirelessly to conduct extraordinarily thorough and complete preliminary reviews and investigations. I am grateful to his team and to him for their commitment to ensuring that the preliminary review and the subsequent investigations fully examined a broad universe of allegations from multiple sources. I continue to believe that our Nation will be better for it.

    “I also appreciate and respect the work of and sacrifices made by the men and women in our intelligence community on behalf of this country. They perform an incredibly important service to our nation, and they often do so under difficult and dangerous circumstances. They deserve our respect and gratitude for the work they do. I asked Mr. Durham to conduct this review based on existing information as well as new information and matters presented to me that I believed warranted a thorough examination of the detainee treatment issue.

    “I am confident that Mr. Durham’s thorough reviews and determination that the filing of criminal charges would not be appropriate have satisfied that need. Our inquiry was limited to a determination of whether prosecutable offenses were committed and was not intended to, and does not resolve, broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct.”

    What is your explanation for why even to this day after release of the partisan Feinstein Report, there is zero interest in the Obama WH to renew looking into prosecutable offenses? It’s already been examined. The Bush CIA “torture” team lawyered up and would not proceed ahead with the Program until they had all the legal cover they needed from DoJ and the OLC.

    Holder’s team looked at the facts, and they are stubborn things. No matter how you emotionally have been manipulated by the Partisan Feinstein Report, there’s nothing to prosecute here.

    Move on.

  5. 57

    Greg

    @Redteam, #54:

    …rather feeble argument about the President being above the law when we have Mr. Usurper himself in the office at the present time.

    There’s nothing feeble about it. There’s a legal prohibition against torture that was very clearly broken by the Bush administration in an intentional and methodical way.

    An elected president who won both the popular vote and the electoral vote by wide margins in two elections be considered to have usurped anything.

  6. 58

    Greg

    @Wordsmith, #55:

    What is your explanation for why even to this day after release of the partisan Feinstein Report, there is zero interest in the Obama WH to renew looking into prosecutable offenses?

    The Obama WH likely decided that it would not be in the best interests of the United States or of the Executive Branch to see members of the preceding administration publicly tried by their own nation for criminal acts, and perhaps tried in abstentia in international courts for war crimes. I must reluctantly admit that I agree with that decision.

    That said, I had no desire to see what happened trivialized and forgotten, as that would set a precedent for future conduct by default that I simply can’t accept. To my mind, that’s the point of the Feinstein Report. It has put something we should all be very uncomfortable with back in the spotlight for consideration. It won’t be so easily forgotten now. For future reference, what happened wasn’t OK.

    If anything serves as evidence that some additional reflection was needed it’s Dick Cheney’s recent behavior, and the way many people have sympathized with it. Cheney’s public comments have been the most discomforting part of the whole Feinstein episode. Some of the things he’s recently said have made me cringe.

  7. 59

    Redteam

    @Greg:

    There’s nothing feeble about it. There’s a legal prohibition against torture that was very clearly broken by the Bush administration

    If that’s true and your ‘guy’ is such a law abiding criminal himself, why doesn’t he prosecute the law breakers, (see Word’s comment above”.)

    and perhaps tried in abstentia in international courts for war crimes.

    You know there is no such thing as “international courts’ that’s just a term the rest of the world attempts to use to make the Americans look guilty of something they will never be tried in a real court for. Kinda like a kangaroo court.

    The Obama WH likely decided that it would not be in the best interests of

    what you’re trying to say is: “so they won’t look so much like the idiots they really are.”
    Don’t worry Greg, there will always be someone around to take care of you, even if they have to resort to EIT to get the job done.

  8. 61

    Greg

    @Redteam, #59:

    You know there is no such thing as “international courts’ that’s just a term the rest of the world attempts to use to make the Americans look guilty of something they will never be tried in a real court for.

    The International Criminal Court is located in The Hague, Netherlands. It’s unlikely that members of the Bush administration will ever face trial there, however, for reasons explained in a recent Washington Post article:

    Why Dick Cheney and the CIA don’t need to worry about international criminal charges

    They only place they’re likely to be judged is in the court of international opinion. Unfortunately, some of the stink of what was done has rubbed off onto our nation and its flag.

    @Redteam, #60:

    you sure must have a real noodle for a spine.

    There’s nothing wrong with my spine. As suggested, the problem I have relates to the sensitivity of my nose.

  9. 62

    Greg

    This article appeared in The Guardian yesterday, December 15: The media treats Dick Cheney like the royals on vacation. He should be in jail

    Beyond saying he’d do it all over again, the former vice-president was asked about the almost 25% of the detainees in the CIA torture program who were later declared innocent. He has no remorse. Cheney said:

    “I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States. I was prepared and we did.”

    The man just stated he has no problem with the fact that we tortured innocent people. Think about that for a moment.

  10. 63

    Redteam

    @Greg: 61

    It’s unlikely that members of the Bush administration will ever face trial there,

    That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. You don’t break the law, you don’t go to trial. I think you may be beginning to catch on.

    The only place they’re likely to be judged is in the court of

    public opinion by the majority of Americans that have remained safe since 9/11. No thanks to the libs of the world.

    I have relates to the sensitivity of my nose.

    quit hanging out with all those libs and the fragrance will improve.

    The man just stated he has no problem with the fact that we tortured innocent people.

    You need a refresher course in reading comp. At no time did he say he ‘tortured’ anyone and no one except Senate Dims have ever even made that claim. The Obozo justice dept has said no one had committed any crimes to be charged with. Don’t you believe Obozo?

  11. 64

    Greg

    @Redteam, #63:

    That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. You don’t break the law, you don’t go to trial. I think you may be beginning to catch on.

    The fact that they’re not being prosecuted isn’t an acknowledgement that no law was broken.

    The Justice Deptartment’s determination that no one would be prosecuted in connection with the two deaths that resulted from the application of “enhanced interrogation” is an example of the sort of prosecutorial discretion the right was condemning the Obama administration for a week or so ago. In that context, they want every law on the books to be enforced to the letter.

    Cheney won’t use the word “torture.” Of course he won’t. The word doesn’t fit with the fairy tale he wants people to accept. He wants a gentler terminology. Two people died under “enhanced interrogation.” Others were tormented and traumatized to some point that fell short of death. Of those subjected to “enhanced interrogation,” 25 percent were later declared to have been innocent.

    The GOP wants this all to be seen as OK. Fine. People should fully understand exactly what they’re endorsing. They should understand what they could be opening the door on. It’s neither American nor Christian behavior. Or maybe it is. It all depends on whether or not we want to honor and keep the central ideals. Anybody can call themselves something.

  12. 65

    Redteam

    @Greg:

    The fact that they’re not being prosecuted isn’t an acknowledgement that no law was broken.

    But the fact that they’ve said no law was broken is a good reason to not try to indict them.

    Two people died under “enhanced interrogation.

    No wrong doing was found in their deaths.

    The GOP wants this all to be seen as OK. Fine.

    I knew you’d eventually agree it was fine. Protecting American lives should take priority over whether someone misses an evening meal or not.

    Keep reading us here and you’ll begin to think like an American.

  13. 66

    Wordsmith

    editor

    @Greg:

    Of those subjected to “enhanced interrogation,” 25 percent were later declared to have been innocent.

    This is how misinformation gets spread around. Go back to the tabloid Feinstein Report and re-read pg 424: 26 of the 119 were wrongfully detained in the CIA program. Not that these 26 “innocent” detainees all received EITs. Only 39 of the 119 received some form of EIT. For the majority, standard interrogation techniques worked.

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