This Is How a Prisoner of War Feels About Torture
The release of a Senate report on the CIA's former interrogation program brought both political division and shock on Tuesday. While the shock was more universal, the division fell mostly along partisan lines with one notable exception: Senator John McCain.
In a nearly 15-minute speech from the Senate floor, McCain offered what is arguably the most robust defense so far of the report's release, referencing his own experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and rebuking his Republican colleagues by endorsing the study's findings.
It is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose—to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies—but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.
His longtime amigo Senator Lindsey Graham was one of many politicians and intelligence officials to say that the report—which contained graphic accounts of physical and psychological abuse—could damage American interests abroad and that the timing of its publication was "politically motivated."
"The timing of the release is problematic given the growing threats we face," Graham said on Tuesday. "Terrorism is on the rise, and our enemies will seize upon this report at a critical time. Simply put, this is not the time to release the report."
McCain responded directly to the claim. He condemned the use of misinformation to garner support for past CIA practices and linked this history to the current campaign to keep the Senate report under wraps. "There is, I fear, misinformation being used today to prevent the release of this report, disputing its findings and warning about the security consequences of their public disclosure.
"They will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering."
But most poignantly, McCain spoke of his own five-and-a-half-year captivity in Vietnam to argue that torture fails to yield credible information.
"I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering."
McCain added (emphatically) that "the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights."
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