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. Quarterback

    So my senator who was tortured by the North Vietnamese Army is worried about a witch hunt?

    Which witch? We already know CRIMES were commited.

    It's just a matter of prosecuting those liable.

    You don't think he would of gone after the NVA once he was released?

    Had we won that war, he would hang them himself.

    April 23, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  2. Brad

    McCain is desperate remain relevant. Sorry dude, you are the past.

    April 23, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. arithmetic is liberal

    "[I]t is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. ...voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    – Hermann Goering, testifying at the Nuremberg trials

    April 23, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  4. Enlightened Voter

    Will somebody, anybody please tell this clueless pathological liar that he LOST!!!!!!

    April 23, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. Tse

    If they "do not support the idea of a commission that would focus on the mistakes of the past," why do they think the 9/11 Commission did? Was it not dealing with the past?

    April 23, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  6. S.M

    Eventhough McCain himself experienced torture while a prisoner of war, it still doesn't give the CIA nor the former President and his cohorts the authority to torture others.

    Is McCain against the prosecution of those who inflicted this pain upon prisoners because he knows that our former president, VP and Secretary of State will be punished as well?

    If they committed a crime than they are not above the law and should be prosecuted as well.

    Stop protecting the Hoodlums of the former Bush Administration.

    April 23, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  7. mkn

    That comment from the man who allowed his campaign gutter gal to accuse Obama of haning out with terrorits, allowed people to carry stuffed monkey's at thier politcal events?? HE is warning Obama about Witch Hunts?? He outta know I guess.

    April 23, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. MikefromWV

    If roles were reversed, I'm darned sure that the Repubs would be screaming for the blood of any democratic official involved in this mess. So I have absolutely no sympathy for either the ones doing the torturing, or for the higher-ups who gave the legal advice to the CIA, or, even more importantly, for those who bear the ultimate responsibility - the high-ranking officials in both the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon. If that means bringing in criminal indictments against the former President, Vice-President (especially him), the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General and the Secretary of State. If it turns out to be a blood bath, so be it.

    April 23, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. Phat Elvis

    Wrong. if bad legal advice is given then that person could be held liable and risks losing their license. just like any other licensed professional,

    April 23, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. WIlly Brown

    #44 is not in charge it’s the Clinton’s.

    April 23, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  11. nitro

    Thats the most crap that i have ever heard. So basicly what the old geezzer is saying is that those people are above the law. Republicans will protect republicans to save face. What do you do, tell other countries that torture is wrong unless you are the United States of America. When he voiced his displeasure to the previous administration what did he do about it other than talk. Nothing so sit down and shut TFU.

    April 23, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  12. Cindy

    Agreed... no witch hunt. We have enough of that still going on in the world... like the Holocaust witch hunts still going on today.

    April 23, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    Total fluff intended to taint public opinion and interfere with the administration of justice in this matter. As a practicing attorney I can tell you right now that if these memos were (a) not written in good faith and (b) were part of a cover-up scheme to lend superficial legitimacy to actions that everyone involved really knew were not only illegal, but morally reprehensible, then I want my fellow attorneys who did it disbarred and prosecuted IMMEDIATELY. The DOJ and the attorneys who work there are not and should not be used as patsies for the POTUS and VP to manipulate the appearance legality of their actions, period.

    April 23, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  14. Karen-phoenix

    Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld should be sent to the Hage and brought up on charges of "crimes against humanity"–not just for the torture stuff but for even starting that D- war!!! And I was a republican for over 40 years but never again will I vote republican after this bunch just about destroyed America!!!

    April 23, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  15. jw

    Torture. Didn' the Nazis do that?

    April 23, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  16. Geoff

    So McCain doesn't think that Top Officials should be held accountable for breaking the law in the wake of 9/11.

    What message does this send exactly, to citizens in this country and abroad? That's it's ok to break the law if you have a really compelling reason?

    April 23, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  17. Naldo

    McCain is still putting his head in the sand on this issue. When the debate raged about this years ago, for months, McCain kept silent. He didn't say anything until he started his presidential campain. Then all of sudden he's trying to distance himself from Bush the Torturer-In-Chief.

    Those memos were DIRECTIVES, not "advice".
    • When your boss tells you to do something that is explicitly prohibited, that's a Directive.
    • When unsolicited commentary on how to do your job comes from the TOP down, that's a Directive.
    • When the same statements are distributed to several agencies, that's a Directive from the Decider.

    April 23, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  18. Pepou

    Lieberman ! Well, let's not prosecute the Nazis, right ? It's all in the past. That ludicrous hypocrite, along with McCain (who was tortured!) and of course insipid Graham would think that "we should focus on the past". Well fellows in order NOT TO REPEAT the past you have to acknowledge what was wrong. No one including you 3 are above the law.

    April 23, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  19. Bill in Austin

    Senator McCain has been all over the place when it comes to torture. His stance depends on the prevailing political winds. Why should he be listened to now?

    April 23, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  20. bushbgone

    Amazing how the rebublicans do not want the truth to be told. I am so sick of their nonsense. I hope the truth is found and I love President Obama and the things he is doing to correct our country after 8 years of stupidity.

    April 23, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  21. RH

    Aren't all crimes "mistakes of the past?" If there is sufficient evidence of criminal behaviour at any point along the chain of command, how can a western, civilised state supposedly bound by the rule of law NOT prosecute? Anybody who thinks an investigation and potential prosections over this matter would be bad for the US domestically had better consider how it will affect the US in the eyes of the world. Let this go and the international community will know beyond lofty words that nothing has changed in America.

    April 23, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  22. shucks

    Please. We are sick and tired of warnings from the republicans. Just keep your mouths shut and watch how a real president runs the country. Just because you know laws were broken both domestically and internationally with the type of torture used, don't denounce what could be a few of you moral professed christians going to jail for torture.

    April 23, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  23. William in San Jose

    Yes Senator McCain, justice would be really bad for people who broke international law.. How about that gas tax holiday idea instead!

    April 23, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  24. Geoffrey Pahl

    Let the witch hunt begin, and may it begin with those war criminals and liars Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld!

    April 23, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  25. Gracie, MD


    WHAT DON'T THESE REPUBLICAN "DRAMA QUEENS" CRY ABOUT?? These grown OLD men are acting more and more like a bunch of whining girls than anything else.

    There is no one that did NOT expect these responses from the likes of Johnny boy. The Republicans can't stand the fact that they are NOT IN CONTROL, IRRELEVANT, A MINORITY PARTY, THE PARTY OF NO, NO, NO.

    When they were in control for 8 years, they DIDN'T GIVE A RATS ASS about anyone or anything, they did whatever they hell they wanted, legal or illegal. So I guess, they are having "withdrawals"...... too bad.... what goes around is coming around...

    April 23, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
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