Last night on The Ed Show, I discussed the amazing speech and column by Senator John McCain on torture. One of the most notable aspects of the comments was McCain stating that the claim by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey that torture led to the location of Bin Laden is simply untrue and confirmed as false by CIA Director Leon Panetta.
As did Ron Paul in the recent Republican debate, John McCain confronted his colleagues over the effort to redeem torture by claiming that it was beneficial in this case. As he correctly notes, torture is a war crime not because it lacks any benefit in terms of intelligence but because it is immoral.
One of the most interesting passages was:
Former attorney general Michael Mukasey recently 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.
To the contrary, McCain points out that the torture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed resulted in demonstrably “false and misleading information.”
Where I part with McCain is his insistence that, despite it being torture (and thus a war crime), no one should ever be punished for the crimes. It is important to stand for principle but it is even more important to bear the responsibility that comes with principle. It may not be popular or convenient, but we are obligated to investigate and prosecute torture.
48 thoughts on “McCain: Mukasey Claim That Torture Led To Bin Laden Is False”
…grammatically incorrect, as first stated, but…
We live in an “if it doesn’t directly impact me, it’s of little consequence” culture…
To this point, maybe nothing has changed.
From Crooks and Liars:
Turley: ‘Torture Isn’t a War Crime Because It’s Never Beneficial. It’s a War Crime Because It’s Immoral’
While I commend Sen. John McCain for speaking out on the Senate floor this week condemning those who have come out since the death of Osama bin Laden defending the use of waterboarding — or as they want to call it, “enhanced interrogation” — and claiming that the torture somehow worked to gain intelligence, McCain is still on the wrong side of the issue with saying he doesn’t believe anyone should be prosecuted. Jonathan Turley rightfully pointed that out to Ed Schultz tonight.
He also expressed his disdain for the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision not to investigate and hold members of the Bush administration accountable for war crimes, which I share.
TURLEY: One of the most powerful things about McCain’s speech is the truism that lies beneath it where he says, you know, being tortured is simply immoral. You know, I think much of the world is shocked by the debate that we’re having. This whole question of did it yield usable intelligence has long been rejected by the world and by the United States and its treaties as a viable argument for torture. Torture isn’t a war crime because it’s never beneficial. It’s a war crime because it’s immoral, because it is a war crime.
And you can imagine how we look to the world in this debate when we have all of these officials who not only say that they ordered torture, but are trying to sell the American people on how good torture really is.
I also always cynically wonder about John McCain’s political motivations any time he looks like he’s doing the right thing. While I have no doubt that his personal experience with being tortured as a prisoner of war has as much to do with him speaking out as anything, he also still really doesn’t have any use for any of the Bushies or George W. Bush after what they did to him when he ran against Bush for president and Karl Rove ran that whisper campaign against him in South Carolina. McCain always seems to have a penchant for doing the right thing if it means getting some digs in on his political enemies and ignoring wrong doings when it’s politically convenient as well.
The entire episode is cacophony on steroids.
“The US govt. will not press charges for torture. It currently engages in torture at several black site prisons in Afghanistan. It engages in extraordinary rendition to nations which torture. In short, the former and current administrations were/are engaged in war crimes without penalty. That people, both liberal and conservative accept this lack of prosecution is a complete disaster for the survival of our nation.” -Jill
Well said. And there is an ongoing debate about domestic activities that constitute torture. Few seem to be paying attention and/or care. We live in a “if it doesn’t directly impact me, it’s of little consequence” culture…
Something jumps out at me in this whole thing: “McCain said that CIA Director Leon Panetta told him: “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.”
The Obama administration admits freely that three detainees were waterboarded. That is torture and should trigger investigations for war crimes.
The US govt. will not press charges for torture. It currently engages in torture at several black site prisons in Afghanistan. It engages in extraordinary rendition to nations which torture. In short, the former and current administrations were/are engaged in war crimes without penalty. That people, both liberal and conservative accept this lack of prosecution is a complete disaster for the survival of our nation.
So McCain only sticks to his principles when giving in won’t help his political career?
Civilian grand juries related to torture?
I hope I get to serve on one.
One lives to be of service.
And no Senator’s speech substitutes for the seating of civilian grand juries to probe matters of torture.
-James in LA
Well said. And I hope I live to see the day, if it ever comes…
Well, good on McCain, though he holds forth from the land of Days Late, Dollars Short. And no Senator’s speech substitutes for the seating of civilian grand juries to probe matters of torture.
Maybe this was new information only to me, but I heard Donald Rumsfeld interviewed recently and of course the question of waterboarding came up. He said that no waterboarding was done at Gitmo. He didn’t say where Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other were tortured, but insisted that none of it was done at Gitmo. He didn’t deny it was done and I don’t recall that he tried to give any credit to torture for the intel on OBL. That there was no waterboarding there doesn’t change anything Gitmo or torture, but it corrects what I thought was going on there.
McCain’s senate email is set up to allow out of state emails.
They say the maverick is back on this issue. The maverick has been absent for ten years. Has a six year term in Arizona. I doubt he will run for anything again. Wish he would ease up on gays in the military.
I think someone may be right….
lottakatz, maybe McCain is thinking of his ”legacy”. He’s said so many different things he may think the last is what people will take as his ‘real’ opinion.
I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts,
SEAL helmet cams recorded entire bin Laden raid
More accurate version of what happened includes details that bin Laden first emerged on third floor, retreated to bedroom after shot fired
WASHINGTON – A new picture emerged Thursday of what really happened the night the Navy SEALs swooped in on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports the 40 minutes it took to kill bin Laden and scoop his archives into garbage bags were all recorded by tiny helmet cameras worn by each of the 25 SEALs.
Officials reviewing those videos are still reconstructing a more accurate version of what happened. We now know that the only firefight took place in the guest house, where one of bin Laden’s couriers opened fire and was quickly gunned down. No one in the main building got off a shot or was even armed, although there were weapons nearby.
Much as I’d like to give McCain points for his speech I have to note that he’s changed his position on torture when it’s been to his advantage. I wait for the other shoe to drop whenever he makes a statement. ‘What does this have to do with his political aspirations’ is my question. I am of the opinion that that question is the basis for every act McCain does so I’m wondering what’s up.
That being said I’m glad that the issue of torture is again being discussed regardless of any role it did or didn’t play in developing the information in question. The merit of prosecuting low level players while the architects are given a pass is an argument that’s always worth having. I would hope it could change the President’s mind but I know that hope is the stuff of fantasy.
Good discussion, Prof. Turley.
Comments are closed.