In the wake of the alleged killing of Osama Bin Laden, there have been renewed justifications of the use of torture and so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" as having been necessary to discovering him and bringing him to justice. (Justice?) These justifications, sometimes coming from highly placed, unrepentant sources in neoconservative and national security elements of the Government, have had the desired and expected result of enthusing too many of the pro-violence people of this country that they were "right all along."
Senator John McCain spoke to the issue of torture this past week on the floor of the United States Senate, and -- I think courageously -- countered these sources of misinformation and called them out. (You can quickly read the transcript of his speech here, or watch the 22-minute video here.) Particularly he rebuked former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey with these words:
"Many advocates of these techniques have asserted their use on terrorists in our custody, particularly Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, revealed the trail to bin Laden--a trail which had gone cold in recent years but would now lead to his destruction. The former Attorney General of the United States, Michael Mukasey, recently claimed that 'the intelligence that led to bin Laden ..... began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh 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 was going to say that I am horrified to think that a man holding such views as Mukasey (see them here) -- philosophically reprehensible as well as factually false -- was ever the chief law enforcement officer in our government, but I am not horrified. I am angry. I am angry at the Bush Administration for nominating such a man, whose pro-torture, pro-wiretapping, pro-Patriot-Act views were well known -- indeed, apparently qualified him uniquely for the nomination.
And I am angry at the United States Senate for confirming him to replace the equally unacceptable Alberto Gonzales. Though it must be said that this was a close vote; and it must further be said that the vocal opposition to his nomination came preponderantly from the liberals in the Senate.
Where were the Constitution-loving conservatives? They were busy screwing the Bill of Rights. Where was the civil-liberties-loving Jewish political community? It was split, for many reasons worth some research, if you have the time. Whatever your own political inclinations are, you can see the complete roll call here in the government records, and find out how your favorites voted.
But I digress. The important, encouraging thing (to me) is that Senator McCain has not let this matter rest, and is taking a stance that the bi-partisan Establishment doesn't want to hear. Whatever his limitations may be, at least here he has found his voice.
And he has done his homework. He asked for the facts from Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, and this is what he says he learned from him:
"With so much misinformation being fed into such an essential public debate as this one, I asked the Director of Central Intelligence, Leon Panetta, for the facts, and I received the following information:
"The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. We did not first learn from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the real name of bin Laden's courier, or his alias, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti--the man who ultimately enabled us to find bin Laden. The first mention of the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaida, came from a detainee held in another country. The United States did not conduct this detainee's interrogation, nor did we render him to that country for the purpose of interrogation. We did not learn Abu Ahmed's real name or alias as a result of waterboarding or any 'enhanced interrogation technique' used on a detainee in U.S. custody. 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-Qaida.
"In fact, not only did the use of 'enhanced interrogation techniques' on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed, it actually produced false and misleading information. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married, and ceased his role as an al-Qaida facilitator--which was not true, as we now know. All we learned about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti through the use of waterboarding and other 'enhanced interrogation techniques' against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the confirmation of the already known fact that the courier existed and used an alias."
Thanks for standing up on this one, Senator McCain. Thanks for not letting the lies pass unchallenged.
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Comments pro, con, and otherwise are always welcome.