April 23rd, 2009
03:11 PM ET
5 years ago

McCain warns the president of a possible 'witch hunt'

 McCain, who himself experienced torture tactics as a POW in Vietnam, has been a vocal critic of controversial interrogation techniques used by the Bush administration.
McCain, who himself experienced torture tactics as a POW in Vietnam, has been a vocal critic of controversial interrogation techniques used by the Bush administration.

(CNN) - Arizona Sen. John McCain warned Thursday if President Obama prosecuted Bush administration officials who authorized harsh interrogation tactics on terrorist suspects, the process could "turn into a witch hunt."

"If you criminalize legal advice, which is basically what they're going to do, then it has a terribly chilling effect on any kind of advice and counsel that the president might receive," McCain said during an interview on CBS's "Early Show."

"To go back on a witch hunt that could last for a year or so frankly is going to be bad for the country," he said.

McCain, who himself experienced torture tactics as a POW in Vietnam, has been a vocal critic of controversial interrogation techniques used by the Bush administration. Earlier this year, the former 2008 Republican presidential nominee applauded President Obama's decision to end the use of waterboarding as a form of examination.

McCain, along with GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman sent a letter to the president Wednesday strongly urging him not to press charges on previous administration officials who provided legal analysis in regard to detainee interrogation, writing they "do not support the idea of a commission that would focus on the mistakes of the past."


Filed under: John McCain • President Obama
soundoff (152 Responses)
  1. Bobbie

    Really? I feel like allowing people to walk around unaccountable for their actions is much worse.

    April 23, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  2. Barbara

    Obama has enough to solve. He needs to work on the now, learn from the past adm. and move forward. We aren't hard enough on the terrorists.

    April 23, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  3. bf

    With all of the problems that need to be addressed by the government right now, this needs to be put on hold, but I'm baffled by McCain's desire to avoid a witch hunt.

    Where was he when we spent a year not governing the country to investigate Bill Clinton for an offense that doesn't come close to the seriousness of torture? Where might we be today if that time had been spent creating real legislation?

    Let's get the economy going now- there will be time to identify and punish the guilty later. It's not like we don't know where to look.

    April 23, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  4. SM in MICHIGAN

    No, no commission...let's just get them into court. And for McCain to ignore this blatant disregard for the law says something about him, too. One of the reasons Obama won is that Dems have wanted this torture acknowledged, stopped, and someone held accountable. Obviously, McCain would have pardoned them all! We are either a country of morals and laws, or we are no better than al queda. I choose the law.

    April 23, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  5. thersa

    This argument is patently ridiculous. Openness doesn't stop lawyers and other advisors from advising a president, as long as the advice they provide is legal. If that's a "chilling effect," GOOD!

    April 23, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  6. eww

    Regardless whether or not there are repercussions resulting from a probe, it needs to be done. We've got foreign nations considering it. I'm quite certain the detainees, past or present, once released may consider pursuing legal actions, be it through their respective country or class action at the Hague. We need to gain a better understanding as to what there is involved in this rankling. I'm quite certain a closed-door probe can be done with minimal intrusion by the media as long as their is that understanding that it could result in immeasurable problems.

    April 23, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  7. Marty, Grand Rapids Mi

    Yes, start the which hunt. If people broke the law, they should be held accountable. Maybe this will force politicians to do more risk management and less "whatever I feel like cause I'm going to get away with it anyway".

    April 23, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  8. chuck

    When John McCain speaks no one knows where he stands so he should not have a say on television because it's like George Bush and Dick Cheney saying "we've done nothing wrong".

    April 23, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  9. S M R

    It's time the wrong doings of the Bush Administration be exposed for the good of future generations.Doing nothing and looking the other way is sending a message that it's ok to trample the Constitution and rip off the American tax payer. JUSTICE SHOULD BE SERVED.

    April 23, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  10. Ghost

    Not that I think this investigation will go anywhere, but McCain is about as bass ackwards as they come. If you give legal advice and it turns out to be wrong, I believe that is grounds for a lawsuit at best. Malpractice anyone? Not to mention other related penalties, such as disbarment.

    April 23, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  11. nwg6011

    Oh John... You're sounding more and more like Bush every day.

    Are you telling me that, after being tortured yourself and held captive for five years, you criticize Obama for doing something about it? He's going to hold the torturers accountable. Don't you wish he was there when YOU were being tortured?

    I thought you said "Country First!"

    April 23, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  12. Don't worry John.......

    Obama came out today against prosecution and said he would veto any legislation that supports it-–this is his 3rd waffle on the issue–from no to yes and back to no again, all in 3 days-this is a decisive president.

    April 23, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  13. katiec

    Although I hate to see our country involved in more dirt, should these people who so blatently broke the law be allowed to do so? The so called "legal" memos were illegal. Our country has never supported torture and the Geneva Convention forbids it. Yes, others do it but do we stoop to their level? Should people who think they are above the
    law twist it however they want and not be held accountable? Would Mccain and others be against a "witch hunt" if it were the Democrats that were involved?? Think not.

    April 23, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  14. JonDie

    Prosecuting CRIMINALS is not a "witch hunt" (although McCain is oldest enough to have been around during the Salem witch trials and is probably just confused).

    April 23, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  15. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    Witch hunt my rear. Basically they are saying, anyone can write a legal brief to accommodate an action in this pathetic government. The Constitution and Geneva Convention treaties were ignored and these jerks want to sweep it under the rug like it never happened.

    Apparently there are laws for us and there are laws for them. Isn't that what they are saying?

    April 23, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  16. Jeff

    Now, a witch hunt to find out if the President and an intern did the deed in the Oval Office, THAT would be the the kind of "mistakes of the past" to focus on. Especially if there's a soft-core porn report at the end.

    April 23, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  17. Doug

    Poor McCain. He apparently does not understand his own irrelevance. Perhaps someone should tell him.

    April 23, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  18. keeth in california

    "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Galatians 6:7 KJV)

    And thousands of other Biblical quotations, proverbs and cliches. You get what you give, Mr. McCain. If a witch hunt comes, you have none but yourself and your party to blame.

    April 23, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  19. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I guess if this were McCain's watch, the memos would have never been released and the Bush Administration officials would walk away with impunity.

    April 23, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  20. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    Should be a short hunt.
    Bush, Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, White House Lawyers

    April 23, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  21. ~~ July ~~

    'witch hunt' ???

    you meant worst then the one he is getting NOW from the GOP???

    Geeee McCain , we know now what you would have done if you had won ..... for sure give EVERYONE from the Bush era ' The Freedom Metal of Honor' .....

    April 23, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  22. dominican mama 4 Obama

    "If you criminalize legal advice, which is basically what they're going to do, then it has a terribly chilling effect on any kind of advice and counsel ..."
    ------------------------------
    Well, guess what Johnny? It is NOT the legal advice that would be criminalized, but the ACTION taken based on that advice. Advice, I might add, that had it's counterpart in another legal report, by another set of lawyers. Said lawyers stated that the report that shrub & dickie had supporting the legality of the "interrogation tactics" would not pass muster with judges in a court of law. They chose to ignore that report, and...tried to destroy all copies of memos pertaining to that report. Hmmmm?

    Do the words "above the law" ring any bells? Now they're scared
    s-itless. I would be too. Criminals!

    April 23, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  23. JB

    Besides, who can tell what the definition of "torture" is? CNN is doing a disservice by discussing this and not acknowledging what torture is. Without that definition, how can we discuss this? What is "enhanced interrogation techniques"? Some have said it is wrong to deprive someone of sleep. What is that? Is 6 hours not enough, and therefore torture? How about puting prisoners in the cold? And what is cold? is 60 degrees to cold? And finally, what definitions will you use for US citizens? I guess we can agree that constitutional definitions apply in that situation. What about non US citiens? What deifinition do we use then? This whole debate is absurd until we can get basic defintions. And again, CNN you just show your bias when you arbitrarirly use the word tortue when discussing this issue.

    April 23, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  24. Joe in NJ

    Exactly. We don't need a long, dragged out, tax payer supported trial that's only going to make the U.S. look worse.

    April 23, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  25. Former Military

    Witch hunt it may be, however, I think it is necessary. In the minds of our attackers, these activities justify their attacks. Torture is not acceptable. The ends does not justify the means. The same republican party leaders who were in favor of this would tell us all how abhorrent other "immoral" activities are, but, say that this is ok. If the ends do justify the means than prostitution by a woman who is simply trying to feed her child should be ok. Their argument demeans us all and makes the US no better than those who attacked us. And, no, I don't hate AMerica, I proudly served as a US Army officer and worked for state government for years after. Exactly the opposite, I love the ideals of this nation and the principles it was founded upon. Not the made up ones that the republicans have used in trying to rewrite history, but, the real ones, like justice for all. The the Bush folks, justice only for those who agree with, well, the Bush folks. Sorry Sen McCain, I respect and admire your service, but, part of restoring our standing in the world may involved putting Condi, Dick and George on trial. They are war criminals. We don't need Nuremburg, but, some sunshine on this issue is undoubtedly necessary for the US to have any moral standing.

    April 23, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.