McCain: CIA Abuse Probe "Serious Mistake"

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on "Face the Nation," Aug. 30, 2009. CBS

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he thinks it is a "serious mistake" for the administration to focus on the past when investigating the interrogation techniques of the CIA under President Bush on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "For us now to go back, I think, would be a serious mistake.

"I believe that the president was right when he said we ought to go forward and not back. I worry about the morale and effectiveness of the CIA. I worry about this thing getting out of control," the Arizona senator said.

On "Fox News Sunday," former Vice Former Vice President Dick Cheney said that the president's decision to appoint a special prosecutor to review the Bush administration's interrogation strategies .

McCain admitted that he was "radically opposed" to the interrogation techniques of the former administration and said, "I think it harmed us."

Host Bob Schieffer asked if the senator agreed with Vice President Cheney that the interrogations produced helpful information for the United States in fighting terrorism.

"I think these interrogations once publicized helped al-Qaeda recruit. I got that from an al Qaeda operative in a prison camp in Iraq," McCain said. "I think the ability to work with our allies was harmed."

During a trip to Iraq, McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) were told by an operative that the images of abuse at Abu Grhaib prison camp helped him recruit "thousands" of anti-American terrorists.

"The damage that it did to America's image in the world is still something that we are still on the way to repairing. This is an ideological struggle as well as a physical one," he said.

Later in the program, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that while she was "horrified" by the treatment of detainees "the timing of this [special prosecutor investigation] is not very good." She said the investigation may interfere with an already under way study in her committee.

"Candidly, I wish that the Attorney General had waited," she said.
  • Michelle Levi

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