In February, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) voted against a bill banning the CIA from waterboarding and using other torture tactics in their interrogations. When the bill passed, McCain urged Bush to veto it, which he did.
In an interview with Newsweek published today, McCain defended his position, insisting that the CIA plays “a special role” in defending the U.S. and thus should be allowed to use harsh interrogation tactics such as waterboarding:
NEWSWEEK: On torture, why should the CIA be treated differently from the armed services regarding the use of harsh interrogation tactics?
MCCAIN: 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.
McCain’s vote against the waterboarding ban did make one thing clear: that he condones torture. With Bush’s veto, waterboarding remains a distinct option for the CIA:
Still, waterboarding remains in the CIA’s tool kit. The technique can be used, but it requires the consent of the attorney general and president on a case-by-case basis. Bush wants to keep that option open.
“I cannot sign into law a bill that would prevent me, and future presidents, from authorizing the CIA to conduct a separate, lawful intelligence program, and from taking all lawful actions necessary to protect Americans from attack,” Bush said in a statement.
McCain is either clueless or ignorant about the fact that his vote allows the CIA to waterboard detainees. And as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of McCain’s chief surrogates, has said about waterboarding, “I don’t think you have to have a lot of knowledge about the law to understand this technique violates Geneva Convention common article three, the War Crimes statutes, and many other statutes that are in place.”