Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., spoke against the use of enhanced interrogation techniques Thursday, saying in a Senate floor speech that they weren't integral in finding and killing Usama bin Laden, and that they damage U.S. national character and its reputation.
"I believe some of these practices - especially waterboarding, which is a mock execution, and thus to me, indisputably torture - are and should be prohibited in a nation that is exceptional in its defense and advocacy of human rights," McCain said. "I opposed waterboarding and similar so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques' before Osama bin Laden was brought to justice. And I oppose them now. I do not believe they are necessary to our success in our war against terrorists, as the advocates of these techniques claim they are."
He suggests the trail to bin Laden didn't begin years ago with the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at the Guantanamo Bay prison where the U.S. holds prisoners from the War on Terror.
"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," he said.
McCain spent over five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and has long been vocal about how the U.S. military and intelligence agencies treat prisoners.
"I understand the reasons that governed the decision to approve these interrogation methods, and I know that those who approved them and those who employed them in the interrogation of captured terrorists were admirably dedicated to protecting the American people from harm... But I dispute that it was right to use these methods, which I do not believe were in the best interests of justice or our security or the ideals that define us and which we have sacrificed much to defend."
The Arizona senator noted that despite the fact the U.S. hasn't used the methods against a traditional enemy, other nations could use their use on terror suspects as precedent to torture American troops in future conflicts.
"[W]e must bear in mind the likelihood that some day we will be involved in a more conventional war against a state and not a terrorist movement or insurgency, and be careful that we do not set a standard that another country could use to justify their mistreatment of our prisoners."
McCain says when it comes to the decision whether to use enhanced interrogation techniques in the war on terror, the U.S. needs to focus on itself rather than its enemies.
"As I've said many times before, and still maintain, this is not about the terrorists," McCain said. "It's about us."