John McCain had something to say in his May 11th Washington Post column about the claim that the Bush Administration’s use “enhanced interrogation” techniques provided the key information leading to the killing of Osama bin Laden:
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.
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, non-coercive means.
And regarding the morality of torture and the ideals Americans claim to uphold, he said this:
Ultimately, this is more than a utilitarian debate. This is a moral debate. It is about who we are.
I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life. What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we confuse or encourage those who fight this war for us to forget that best sense of ourselves. Through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss, we are always Americans, and different, stronger and better than those who would destroy us.
I agree with his statements that torture is wrong and that waterboarding, “which is a mock execution and thus an exquisite form of torture,” must never be used by Americans under any circumstances. I’ve always argued, like McCain did in his column, that torture is a moral issue and that it is never – under any circumstances – the right thing to do.
If you read the first few paragraphs of his column you will find that he thinks the military personnel who authorized or carried out orders to use enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, should not be prosecuted. I disagree with him on that point. Why shouldn’t they be prosecuted? What is to stop anybody in the U.S. armed forces from torturing again if those who are known to have done it and those who are known to have approved and ordered the torture of captives are never held to account for their heinous crimes?
I say prosecute them all, but start at the top not the bottom. You know which guys I’m talking about: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Yoo, and anyone else in the “Justice” Department who wrote twisted interpretations of US and international law to justify the crimes committed by the Bush Administration.