McCain: If U.S. uses torture, nation will suffer

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years, has rejected the argument that torture was necessary to successfully combat terrorism - and denied claims that waterboarding detainees provided intelligence that helped end the manhunt for Osama bin Laden.

On Thursday McCain spoke passionately on the U.S. Senate floor about waterboarding and other forms of torture (referred to by some as "enhanced interrogation techniques") that some former Bush administration officials (including former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) claim gave the U.S. the information that led years later to the hideout of Osama bin Laden.

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On CBS' "The Early Show" Friday, McCain denied claims made by Rep. Peter King, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who said earlier this week that through the use of such tactics, a courier for the al Qaeda leader was identified. "We got vital information, which directly led us to bin Laden," King said.

"The fact is that this courier was identified first by a person who was not been held in U.S. custody," McCain said. "In fact, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed not only did not tell the truth about this courier, he even tried to mislead the interrogators by saying that the courier had retired, gotten married, and lived in Peshawar!"

McCain told anchor Erica Hill this highlights the fact that, "If you inflict enough physical pain on someone, they will tell you whatever they think is necessary to get that pain to stop.

"Through normal, conventional interrogation techniques - and by the way I've seen it in Bagram - and with without these enhanced interrogation techniques, we can get more accurate, more valuable information," McCain continued. "And most importantly, preserve our commitments by our Constitution, by the Geneva Conventions, and by other agreements, that we will not practice cruel and inhumane treatment on people who are in our custody."

McCain said the example America sets for the world - including our treatment of prisoners - is important.

"I'm deeply concerned about who we are as a country, and what we stand for and believe in," McCain told Hill. "America has always been an example, and an inspiration to other countries throughout the world, and if we practice torture and do things that diminish, and even harm the image of the United States, and motivate our enemies, then it could have profound consequences in the future.

"We didn't do it to the Japanese war criminals," he said. "We didn't do it to the Nazi war criminals. And think of what would happen if in another conflict an enemy, not a terrorist organization, takes Americans prisoner, then obviously they will feel that they could do the same thing that we have practiced."

"And by the way - when someone inflicts torture on someone, it does great damage not only to the person who receives it, but also the person who engages in it."

In response to today's twin bombings at a paramilitary training center in northwestern Pakistan that killed at least 80 people - for which the Taliban has taken credit, saying it was in retaliation for the U.S. raid on the al Qaeda leader's Abbottabad hideout - McCain said that despite bin Laden's death, "This struggle against radical Islamic extremism is a long way from over."

Pakistan twin bombings kill scores of recruits

"And to somehow think we can now withdraw from Afghanistan and not have to worry any more - we're finding out as recently as yesterday that we are having problems with home-grown terrorists. So the struggle is going to go on for the rest of the 21st century.

"We can't let Afghanistan return to a base for attacks on the United States of America," he told Hill.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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