April 23rd, 2009
03:11 PM ET
6 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. The Leadership Decision

    There are no easy choices when one is President.

    Senator McCain – Too many people believe that these Bush Administration officals purposely drafted "advice memos" which they knew were illegal ... which they knew were perversions.

    Even if they didn't know, they should have known. They were hired to well paying positions and given a lot of power and authority. With that comes responsibility. Even if this wasn't intentional, ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. Having "good intentions" has never been a successful legal defense.

    As President, Mr. Obama must maintain social order. What would happen to social order if he allowed some law breakers to go free? Everyone would then exploit any excuse they could to explain away aggreious behavior. That's not America, despite what has happened on Wall Street. The tough decision ... the leadership decision ... is to address the bad behavior AND find a way to move the country forward.

    America, elect 62 Democratic Senators so that Energy, Education and Health reforms move forward.

    April 23, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  2. TStreet

    I agree with McCain; Obama promised a change in Washington partisanship, however, his actions and those of his administration indicate a desire to spend time focusing on the ills of the previous administration instead of doing his job.

    April 23, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  3. SteveO

    Why are we still subjected to McBush's statements. It's a waste of time and his breathing is a waste of perfectly good air.

    April 23, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  4. RealityKing

    Can't wait for the 2012 hearings on wasteful liberal spending that nearly bankrupt America in 4 years.

    April 23, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  5. John

    Mr. McCain,
    Holder is not "criminalizing legal advice." He is considering prosecution of high officials in our government who provided justification for violating the US Constitution. (6th and 8th ammendments)
    Soldiers, Politicians, and Officials do not take an oath to defend Americans. They take an oath to defend the Constitution. The 8th ammendment specifically prohibits the Federal Government from administering "cruel and unusual punishments." Not- to mention the right of persons to habeus corpus, speedy trial, against excessive search & siezure, etc.
    McCain quit trying to spin this. Your party is wrong. You know it.

    April 23, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  6. lovable liberal

    No need to hunt for the witches. Their names are well-known. Start with the Bushist policy-makers who made torture the official policy of the United States.

    April 23, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  7. Robert

    I support the CIA officials. CIA did nothing wrong in waterboarding al Qaeda suspects.

    When terrorists kill innocent is that not torture? All the people who are against the CIA, need to also know about the torture techniques of the terrorists.

    Terrorist torture children, women and even elderly by piercing into their eyes, dousing children in Acid. Have we forgotten the 8 years old boy from Iraq who was doused in Acid in Iraq and came to US for plastic surgery. Terrorist even dismember the limbs and torture people to death.

    Terrorists are ruthless, merciless and barbaric animals.

    There is a saying “to prevent a greater harm, it is ok to inflict a minor harm”.

    Waterboarding does not cause any disability on the person who is waterboared, but it helps to get information about the terrorists who can cause great harm, like the 9/11.

    April 23, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  8. Simpliticus

    "Witch-hunt"! What kind of man is McCain when he can stand up there on his stump and cast doubt on a man in Obama when his party engaged in more than witch-hunting in the despicable actions his party in the Bush administration and these deplorable reports on torture are just now surfacing. My guess is that Obama's favorable poll numbers are simply better than McCain's poll numbers, hence, Obama's winning in the election over McCain. The cat has been let out of the bag and these torture reports are far more engaging than McCain's supposed reactionary effects on Obama for doing so. This sounds like the gauntlet has been thrown and let teh chips fall where these may. The population's desire to understand the reasons for the "enhanced interrogation" will by far outweigh McCain's "witch-hunt" philosophy. The people are behind the president than are behind his adversary in the last election.

    April 23, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  9. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    I think in this case, McCain is right.

    April 23, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  10. Tommy

    Never mind the legal advice was nefarious and completely wrong-headed, concocted to conform with the idealogy of an absolute moron.

    Aim high McCain. Thank the good lord you got your butt kicked in November and we aren't calling you president instead.

    April 23, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. JDM

    Which Mcain do you listen too? The one who wanted the memos release or the one who dosen't want to proceuted his friends.

    The soldiers got demoted and put in jail for being bad apples. Now we know they were order to do this. How do you not punish the people who order this?
    If I told someone to kill someone and they work for me, I would be just as liable as the person who did it! I voted for Obama, but he can't let these people off the hook for war crimes. Do the rigth thing and charge them or look like a punk for the next three years!

    April 23, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  12. dave

    I hate looking back but when Clinton was going through his problems the country said the same thing we didn’t want a witch hut. But this is serious American have died we are spending billion in Iraq and they broke the law. People have gone to jail for following orders the ones who gave the orders need to do the same.

    April 23, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. Brandon

    It's OK, McCain, there's no need to be condescending – I think the man who we actually elected president has this under control.

    April 23, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  14. Wayne

    What McCain calls a witch hunt I call accountabillity. This is America. We don't torture..or at least we shouldn't if we want to claim a moral high ground.

    If terrorist torture and in doing so it makes them evil..what does American torture do to our image?

    If someone commits a crime, regardless if they are rich, poor in power or powerless they need to do the time. It's just that simple.

    Fear..fear to do what is right. That is what's wrong with Washington.

    April 23, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  15. Becky

    Wouldn't be good for the country? The country has been waiting for justice on the crooks of the Bush Administration. Most of us probably don't mind if this goes on for a year. That's why it's good Obama handed this project over to the Attorney General. I applaud Obama to getting down to the bottom of this.

    April 23, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  16. John Arribas

    I foresee a confessed bomber/terrorist suing in US courts for violation of civil rights AND WINNING. i think that anyone that is suppose to protect us and does so sicerely is a PATRIOT. I am a veteran and love this country,but I see it turning into a sissyfied class of stupified morons. We now dont want to offend our enemies or cause them to feel bad. What the heck did those guys raise the flag on Iwo? for this !
    I cant believe my president apologizes to the world for our behavior in the past and shakes hands with Chavez and smiles to have his pix taken. This must be a nightmare I'm having. My grandkids now play games in which everyone wins,there are no losers.even if they didn't play.It must be a plot to keep them ignorant so they won't raise the roof when they find out theres an financial anvil around their necks.

    April 23, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. Lesley Anne

    It's not the legal advice that they received to proceed, it was the legal and military advice that they were given to not proceed with the techniques that were completely ignored because it didn't suit the climate in the WH at the time. They were looking for links between Saddam and al quaeda to justify the war in Iraq and they pushed for any stretch of the imagination and justification for the policies they needed. They invented excuses in other words. As far as going forward, this WH has already stated what they will and will not condone. And the military hierarchy spoke out against the torture techniques back at the time, so it's really a matter of bringing to light the false reign of the Bush/Cheney adminstration.

    April 23, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  18. Len in Washington

    Sorry, McCain, but what happened at Abu Graib and/or countless other secret prisons around the world under the guise of "protecting America" was far worse for our country than this investigation.

    Now we all can see why Cheney has been so vocal lately. He's trying to lay a defense. A defense of something indefensible.

    The investigations should continue and appropriate actions taken as need be.

    April 23, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  19. not like you on the campaign trail

    "Obama is paling around with terrorists"

    your campaign put that out

    McCain, shut up, lose the election and retire to a beach somewhere

    it is tiring to hear your remarks that are so off the mark

    April 23, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  20. Lynn West Bloomfield, Michigan

    Of course he doesn't want anyone charged. He didn't want Cindy charged for being a pill hog and stealing her drugs from the poor either!

    April 23, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  21. Lynda/Minnesota

    Harsh interrogation tactics? Let's be adults and call it for what it is: torture. You would have thought that the republican party had learned something from Watergate. Evidently not. You can't be a "vocal" critic of torture and then "condone" it by simply sweeping the "mistakes of the past" under the rug. What legal advice? The president and vice president needed their "torture techniques" put in writing? If I am not mistaken, the torture (or per CNN - examination–) was being done well before any legal permission was even drafted. Aren't there two soldiers imprisoned right now for their involvement in torturing? Oh, that's right, these two are the "bad apples". My guess is that the barrel is full of bad apples.

    April 23, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  22. George

    Searching for the truth is not a which hunt. It should not be partisan.
    Don't you republicans want the truth? Seems to me that Bill Clinton went through a rather nasty witch hunt. If laws were broken, does that mean its ok? Senator McCain, please get with the times. Guilt is guilt.
    Not guilty is not guilty.
    We Americans and the world want the truth and those responsible to pay.

    April 23, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  23. james

    they should waterboad lieberman on why he left the democratic party to support mccain.

    April 23, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  24. Kelby In Houston, TX

    John McCain's comments is a sign that the Repuglicans in Washington are about to circle the wagons. They know what's coming and it will be yet another blow to the ugly image of the GOP.

    McCain said, "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." I am pretty sure McCain is not a lawyer. I don't even think he has a law degree. This is not an attempt to 'criminalize' legal advice. This is about the sanctioning of torture. They sanctioned torture and they should be punished for it

    April 23, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  25. Ren from Baltimore

    Senator McCain,

    As one of our most respected lawmakers, are you saying the law is to be applied only when opportune? By who's account is a time opportune or not?

    Weak thinking, sir, and not appropriate from any American. Please rethink this position.

    It is one thing to wish bad news had never been created, but quite another to deny or hide its existence. That is a short-sighted perspective, and a manipulative one at that.

    April 23, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
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