Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) named three measures that he said would no longer be allowed under a provision barring techniques that cause serious mental or physical suffering by U.S. detainees: extreme sleep deprivation, forced hypothermia and "waterboarding," which simulates drowning. He also said other "extreme measures" would be banned.
McCain's remarks were unusual because public officials involved in the lengthy public debate about U.S. interrogation practices have rarely made specific references to the CIA's actions. Instead, they have made general claims about the need for rough interrogations or a desire to stop abusive behavior.
"It's clear we have to have the high moral ground," said McCain, a former POW tortured by prison guards in Vietnam, on CBS's "Face the Nation." "I am confident that some of the abuses that were reportedly committed in the past will be prohibited in the future."
McCain spoke after officials of Human Rights Watch and others pressed him to spell out ways in which the controversial draft legislation would constrain the CIA's actions. The bill, introduced in the Senate on Friday, does not mention specific interrogation methods, causing some experts to say it would leave room for abuses. President Bush endorsed the bill after CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said it meets his agency's needs.
McCain, Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and their staffs were heavily involved in drafting the bill's language, so McCain's reading of it may carry weight in any court battle over its meaning. Aides said he did not clear his remarks with the Bush administration in advance, and spokesmen for the CIA and the White House declined to say yesterday whether they accept McCain's conclusions.
Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters takes umbrage at the fact that McCain made this information public.
What kind of damage could this do? Islamists who watch American media will note the exceptions McCain listed and tell their operatives that they will not need to prepare for waterboarding and can prepare for less rigorous techniques. While it isn't quite the same thing as telling them all of the approved techniques, it gives another edge to the Islamists -- an edge we didn't need to give them.Sorry Ed, I have to disagree. (Boy, I bet that will keep him awake all night...) I don't think it's a mistake at all to let detainees, future detainees, the American public and the rest of the world to know that the US will not stoop that low. Or will no longer stoop that low. Quite apart from the moral ramifications, which are considerable, it will generate respect for the US, as opposed to disgusted fear. In the long run, it will go a lot further.
Serious and responsible people would understand this. Apparently, John McCain doesn't qualify as either.
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