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. JB

    And then I continue my research on this topic, and who would have ever thought. . . . DEMS knew about these techniques and were told they were being used. But Pelosi and Reid didn't complain. They were OK with it because it politically would not have done them any good. Now they pretend like they never knew about it. Typical dem approach, kinda like Frank and the deregulation talks which he blocked and then complained about the lack of regulation. This stuff will eventually catch up to you. However, I have given up hope that you dems will use logic when discussing politics. I m beginning to believe dems were born without the logic gene. Logic would lead us to specifically defining torture. But clearly dems don't need a definition to just arbitrarily accuse repubs of torture. And of course CNN does not acknowledge that dems like Reid and Pelosi knew about this, because it would hurt their agenda.

    April 23, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  2. Jim

    Sen. McCain, legal advice and authorizing the use of torture techniques are two completely different things. And if the legal advice was the misinterpretation of the Constitution, or any law for that matter, I'm sorry but that is criminal. If someone committed murder and said his lawyer adviced him to do it claiming murder wasn't illegal the lawyer would be found as an accessory to murder.

    April 23, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  3. Ed Tallahassee FL

    Witch Hunt is suppose to imply that no one is guilty and people are just going after them because they don't like them.

    With the Bush Whitehouse, they did do some pretty bad things, and people don't like them.

    April 23, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  4. Amy from Seattle

    So much for the self styled maverick of the senate, John McCain. Perhaps the most hypocritical and self aggrandizing man who ran on trumped up merits and sketchy POW stories. For a man who abhored torture to a man who signed on to the pratice and now does not want the investigation to tarnish his repugthug buddies. McCain is desparately trying to emerge as the leader of the discredited repugthugs but cannot find his bearings thanks to his lords and saviors Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and his voice of America, the FOX news. Slink away McCain and at least try lead an honorable life for once in your life.

    April 23, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  5. Lori in St Pete

    To quote dick cheney, "so?"

    To quote little georgie bush, "who cares what you think?"

    April 23, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  6. jm for sc

    McCain, you should be either for torture or against it. If you were critical of the techniques during the Bush Adminstration, then you should be critical of the techinques during the Obama Aministration.

    Right and wrong does not go by democrats or republicans; it is not whether you are considered on the left or the right. It should be determined by the actions being committed. If it's wrong it's wrong; if it's right then it's right regardless of which party people belong to.

    April 23, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  7. Ed Tallahassee FL

    If Bill Clinton had done half the things Bush did we'd still have Ken Star going after him.

    It is sad when people put their party ahead of the truth and the good of America.

    April 23, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  8. ajks

    So, now he thinks the Vietnamese were within their rights to torture him?

    April 23, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  9. hangdogit

    McCain's position is that torture is bad - but that twisting the law to make the clearly illegal appear to be legal is OK.

    This is the worst form of the "situational ethics" that conservatives are so quick to condemn - they were really bad guts, and might attack again, and we panicked, and turned a torture-resistance program into a torture handbook, and we tried to prove a /11-Iraq link, and...

    The Geneva Convention is taught to schools kids, so CIA officers should know about it. So much for the Nuremburg Defence.

    April 23, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  10. John

    If it was OK to witch hunt Bill Clinton, its OK to witch hunt GWB.

    April 23, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  11. Moderate Democrat

    Quite frankly, I do want the people who authorized torture to stand trial, but it would appease me if the outcome boiled down to simply naming, and officially entering into history the names of the traitors that turned their back on the great traditions that america was founded upon and millions of veterans have died fighting for.

    Benedicte Aarnold has been written into our history books for what he was...a traitor. Bush, Cheney, Rove and all others who pursued torture, were morally bankrupt...should also be written into our books for ignoring the laws of our land and disregarding our constitution.

    April 23, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  12. Cynthia in Michigan

    Republicans warning against a witch hunt? Bill Clinton must be laughing his ass off.

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

    Wrong. The witch and warlocks have already been located. No need to hunt down Rice, Cheney, and Rove.

    April 23, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  14. Matthew in Oregon

    So, now he's for torture again?

    April 23, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  15. Soccer Nana

    McCain better concentrate on keeping his Senate seat from the hands of that "minute man" extremist.

    Obama has the White House covered.

    April 23, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  16. carlo

    Excuse me, but what law school did McCain attend? By the way Johnnie, what happened to that budget you hired someone to come up with over two months after President Obama was inaugurated? You know you can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

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

    Sorry Johnny. If they can go after Clinton for getting a bj (while many where having affairs of their own), there should be no problem with investigations. Cheney is asking for it coming out and speaking.

    And me thinks this is the tip of the iceberg.

    The GOP can dish it out, lets see if they can take it.

    April 23, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  18. Scott the Independent

    McCain has been in Washington ever since he retuned as a POW. He is fully aware that the Attorney General is in full control of these issues. There is nothing constitutionally correct that the President can do. It is even against federal law for him to influence AG Holder. So for him to make comments to the President is grand standing because he knows in this the power is all AG Holders.

    April 23, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  19. Weltenbummler

    Good to see that McCain and Graham finally agree with the president on something (being against torture). But didn't the president make clear the other day that it is not his decision to procecute or not but the justice department's? So what was the letter for? President Obama doesn't like the idea either, eventhough he knows morally it is the right thing to do. But he thinks – and I agree with him on that – it is equally if not more important to fix the economy and helping people getting back on their feet. We need to keep in mind though that its better that we procecute our own people than having them procecuted by a foreign country. Because eventually this will probably happen if we decide to do nothing at all. I fully understand his dilemma but I trust he will make the right decisions down the line.

    April 23, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  20. Joel Parkes

    The Bush administration was corrupt and deceitful and it is a sign of an enlightened and democratic nation that individuals, no matter where they come from in life, can be held accountable for the actions they take. Bush and, in particular, Cheney abused the Constitution in order to forward their own personal and economic interests and they should pay whatever price justice deems appropriate for this, including prison sentences. It's not a witch hunt, it's justice.

    April 23, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  21. Veteran in Kansas

    And just what would the good Senator from Az propose as an appropriate way to deal with hunan rights violations and war crimes committed by the past administration, sweep it under the rug. Does that mean that we can at long last stop hunting down those that claimed they were only following orders. Or perhaps he would rather leave it up to the international community to speculate on violations of international law and possibile war crimes trials. If a international court indited would the Senator from Az support turning individuals over to such a court for trial?

    April 23, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  22. Michael Bindner

    Whether the lawyers should be prosecuted depends on whether they were providing real analysis or whether they were intentionally and with malice aforethought justifying an act that they knew was illegal. If such is the case, throw the book at them, at least hard enough so that they sing like Dean did in 1973.

    April 23, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  23. Michael Bindner

    Oh, I was expecting better of McCain, by the way. If the evidence points higher up, hopefully he will put honor before party.

    April 23, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  24. con in PA

    Well President Obama wouldn't press charges against anyone.
    The Attorney General office would investigate what happened, when, and IF any laws had been broken.
    This WOULD NOT BE filing charges for "legal advise". If any administration's legal deptartment does not understand the constitution, bill of rights, or the geneva convention, they have NO business having a law degree, and should be disbarred!
    The United States has never approved torture. This was a turn of events, propogated by the BUSH/CHENEY administration. As well, as illegal wiretapping, without a warrant, or FISA approval. Let the cards fall where they may now.
    If ANY President, disregards they rights of the people, disregard existing laws, and our constitution, THEY SHOULD (and shall be according to THE PEOPLE) BE HELD UP TO THE LAWS OF OUR LAND!
    This is NOT a witch hunt, it IS following the laws of our land! NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW.
    NO ONE....SENATOR MCCAIN!

    April 23, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  25. Too True For You

    Yeah, it would be bad if we expect some modicum of moral fiber from our legal counsel. The only "chilling effect" will be on any weasels seeking to dress up a wrong like a right, like Bush's boys did regularly.

    And it makes me laugh to hear a republican warn about a witch hunt. A witch hunt is one of their favorite pastimes; remember Whitewater? We spent a ton of dough and wasted time to find nothing. The only thing republicans like better than a witch hunt is a snipe hunt, because then they can just make stuff up and do the damage just by looking. .

    April 23, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
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