Thursday, May 12, 2011

BEDROCK: McCain Calls Out Former AG Mukasey On Role of Waterboarding In Tracking Down Bin Laden

Our previous posts on John McCain speaking out about Bin Laden: (1) his statement in the immediate aftermath; (2) his interview the following morning praising Obama;  and (3) his 2008 mocking of Obama for saying he'd go into Pakistan.

Arizona Senator John McCain published a column in the Washington Post yesterday, restating his reasons for opposing "torture" (often euphemistically referred to as "enhanced interrogation techniques"), in light of last week's discussion regarding whether waterboarding helped the U.S. to find and kill Usama bin Laden.  In doing so, McCain revealed that he did some fact-checking on former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey's claim that waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed led us to Bin Laden;  "false", concluded McCain.

McCain said he called outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta for details; Panetta had made some open-for-interpretation statements in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams.  McCain's account of his discussion with Panetta:

"...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.

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."
McCain closed his column with a straight-talking appeal that the U.S. should "stand as an example of a nation that holds an individual’s human rights as superior to the will of the majority or the wishes of government."

It is easy to conclude that the issue of torture and the treatment of prisoners is the most deeply personal political issue for McCain.  He may be criticized - rightly or wrongly - for changing positions on other issues, but this brings us down to McCain bedrock.

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