In an interview for the upcoming issue of Newsweek, John McCain had this exchange about the role of the CIA in the interrogation of prisoners:
On torture, why should the CIA be treated differently from the armed services regarding the use of harsh interrogation tactics?
Because they play a special role in the United States of America and our ability to combat terrorists. But we have made it very clear that there is nothing they can do that would violate the Geneva Conventions, the Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibits torture. We could never torture anyone, but some people misconstrue that who don't understand what the Detainee Treatment Act and the Geneva Conventions are all about.
The number of lies in this statement, and the personal role that John McCain has played in promulgating these lies, is staggering. As a victim of torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese when he was a prisoner of war, McCain should be in a unique position in the Senate to lead the charge to abolish torture of prisoners from Iraq and Afghanistan, yet, time after time, he has yielded instead to political expediency and has allowed himself to be used as a pawn by the Bush Administration in an attempt to cover up the war crimes that have been committed and that continue to this very day.
There were attempts to abolish torture in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, but this fell short and the issue was taken up again with the Military Commissions Act of 2006. As with the previous bill, McCain played the role of the righteous fighter against torture, but in this case wound up brokering a “compromise” that handed Bush everything he wanted. As described by the New York Times, the compromise “would make illegal several broadly defined abuses of detainees, while leaving it to the president to establish specific permissible interrogation techniques.”
Anyone who believes that this President would hold anything back when given the power to determine what comprises torture is living in a fantasyland. For proof, here (see 06-F-01532 doc 07 from the April 13, 2007 entry, page 6) is a portion of a briefing of the Pentagon’s “military analysts” regarding treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo:
In GTMO, that ego down translated down to telling the detainee that his mother and sister were whores, he was forced to wear women's lingerie, multiple allegations of his homosexuality, he was forced to dance with a male interrogator, he was strip searched for control measures, and he was forced to perform dog tricks on a leash.
Now, the basic line there - you say that sounds, you know, like I did - that sounds like degrading. Well, we said yes, it could be. The basic line though in the charter for those interrogations was humane treatment. And humane treatment is spelled out by the President. It's a safe, secure environment that provides medical care, food, water, and the basics of that person's security. Not this. Was this person injured, harmed?
Note that this briefing outlining horrendous treatment clearly constituting torture takes place well after enactment of the Military Commissions Act and goes on to state that this treatment is not torture because the President has said that these prisoners have a “safe, secure environment”, so they are not being tortured. McCain had to know that this is how Bush would interpret the freedom given him by the “compromise” in the MCA and so he had to know that he was the central figure in enabling the ongoing torture at Guantanamo and other detention facilities around the world.
As for the specific role of the CIA in interrogation techniques, McCain played a large role in that, as well. On February 13 of this year, McCain interrupted his campaign for President to come back to the Senate to vote against HR 2082, the Intelligence Authorization Act. The specific provision of this act which McCain wanted to vote against was its extension of the Army Field Manual interrogation techniques to the CIA as the only allowable techniques to be employed. This provision would remove the bulk of the “enhanced techniques” employed by the CIA which are responsible for much of the torture carried out by US personnel. Despite McCain’s “No” vote on this bill, it passed the Senate by a vote of 51 to 45, only to be vetoed by Bush on March 8, based in part on McCain’s call for a veto. The override attempt failed in the House before getting to the Senate.
So now we have McCain’s hands directly on the specific exemption of the CIA from the Army Field Manual interrogation techniques behind his brazen statement in Newsweek that the CIA should be allowed to torture because of its “special role” when it is time to “combat terrorists”. His addition of a disclaimer that we don’t torture simply rings hollow based on the evidence of how prisoners have been treated both before and after the passage of both the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act. McCain’s personal role in enabling further torture by US personnel is inexplicable given his personal history as a victim of torture.
Finally, one more aspect of the “special role” of the CIA is being made clear as the military tribunals for prisoners at Guantanamo are beginning. According to the Los Angeles Times, in a story on July 27:
The name of the Central Intelligence Agency cannot be spoken in the war crimes trial here.
No records of the agency's interrogations of Salim Ahmed Hamdan can be subpoenaed, and no agent can be called to testify about what he or she learned from Osama bin Laden's former driver.
When defense attorney Harry H. Schneider Jr. attempted to demonstrate how many interrogations Hamdan had undergone in the months after his November 2001 arrest -- at least 40 -- he couldn't list the CIA along with more than a dozen other agencies including the Secret Service and what was then known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The prohibition against naming the CIA came in a "protective order" issued by the court at the government's request. The tribunal's deputy chief prosecutor, Army Col. Bruce A. Pagel, couldn't say which agency sought the shield or what arguments were made to justify it.
"It's a bit absurd to go through an entire trial pretending that the CIA doesn't exist," said Matt Pollard, a legal advisor for Amnesty International here to monitor the proceedings.
"The CIA plays a role with the detainees at Guantanamo Bay that has never been fully acknowledged, and the bottom line is that national security should never be claimed against any evidence of torture or human-rights violations."
So now the charade becomes a bit clearer. Legislative efforts to present a false picture that the US does not torture specifically exempt the CIA from torture prohibitions and vest in the President the sole authority to determine what comprises torture. Not surprisingly, the President then allows a wide range of torture techniques and the government takes action to prevent any evidence of the involvement of CIA personnel in interrogations. Sitting smack in the middle of this enabling of war crimes is the one man with the personal history to understand it in its fullest, John McCain.
I truly wonder how he can sleep at night.