April 23rd, 2009
03:11 PM ET
9 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. 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 |
  2. Larry

    Oh Magoo, you've done it again. To compare prosecuting criminals for the crimes they committed to a witch hunt is an insult to witches everywhere.

    April 23, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  3. Pete

    If we as a nation are unwilling to look into "mistakes of the past" on the part of government officials, why don't we just have a general amnesty for everybody for all crimes that have taken place? Let's just drop all ongoing criminal investigations if the alleged crime has already happened. Let's free all the murderers, rapists, stalkers, kidnappers, burglars too—heck, let 'em all go if it happened in the past!

    April 23, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. S G

    mr president please stop this mess of the past and fire your senior advice for giving you bad advice like this we the little guys are the ones who suffer if anyone attacks our country agian i lose my job you go to a bunker

    April 23, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  5. honest Ab

    Now McCain why would we listen to you? Watching you during the election process, undoubtetly you showed that you had some anger management issues, which could be that you agreed with these tactics just to get revenge. What, are they all are getting scared? They are coming out the woodworks as to why they shouldn't investigate. Hmmmmm, scared McCain. These repugs are something else. The truth is getting to close to the skillet and they are about to die. Investigate, investigate, investigate. Stay on those dogs trail, I smell a couple of rats that is about to be fried. Heheee, this is getting good.

    April 23, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  6. Jason

    This is disgraceful. McCain, of all people, trying to protect the Bush administration. He's the only one in the US Senate to know what its really like to be tortured and yet he doesn't want someone from his party to be punished for doing something illegal. I guess he is the truest definition of partisan. The simple fact is Cheney brags about torture. He needs to be in jail. In case you all FORGOT...Clinton kept us safe after the first Tower bombings in 1993 and he did it without taking us into a needless war like Iraq and didn't torture people either.

    April 23, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  7. Mike

    Mississippi Mike,

    The next Republican president will do the same to Obama? Really???
    Funny, cuz I don't recall Obama ever authorizing torture.

    April 23, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  8. C.FL

    Sen. McCain has unfortunately changed his position too many times on this issue. In the GOP primary, he rightfully debated against Romney, referring to waterboarding as torture and a violation of our Geneva Conventions (i.e. illegal). Then, he voted with Bush not to prevent the practice.

    For McCain to over-simply this defining issue now as some kind of so-called witchhunt, it only furthers why he is not the president leading us back to the high ground he once recognized.

    April 23, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  9. Michael M

    Mr McCain's likening of these current revelations and possible future inquiry to a 'witch hunt' does ring true to me. It's a convenient and over used buzz word that attempts to minimize and/or distort an investigation.

    Well, while New England might not have had any witches to uncover, it's another story with the Bush administration. We already know who these people are and unfortunately their actions were not confined to myth or fantasy. I wonder what America McCain believes in when he tells this country to forgive similar practices that he himself has always been quick to deplore.

    April 23, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  10. Reality Counts

    If current Law and International Treties require investigation of potential torture then the current President shouldn't break the Law to protect past bad acts.

    That would be a cover-up and a crime on this admisistration

    April 23, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  11. Flex

    We would send a very strong message to future reckless Republican leaders by prosecuting Bush administration officials for their involvement in torture.

    They act like they can do whatever they want, and they should be held accountable for their actions! Torture was, and is illegal, and they must suffer the consequences of breaking the law!

    April 23, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  12. Paul Dobro

    It is not Obama's call, it is Eric Holder. PERIOD. If a law was broken, DOJ is the right place.

    BIGGER question. What about the soldiers who did (or currectly are as is the case with one soldier) time and took demotions for Abu Ghraib? The pictures show them doing what is LEGAL in these memos. So why where they prosecuted? Why were that called a few bad apples?

    April 23, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |

    Should not use the word, HATE!

    Well, I hate the Republicans! Yessiree, I HATE THEM! How could you
    not. They want Obama to fail. That is like they want the USA to fail.

    Bad News from the Republicans everyday.

    April 23, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  14. Mari( maybe one of my comments will be posted)

    "Witch hunt"!!??? Shame on you, McCain....... YOU....... of all people should be the first one to condemn the Bush/Cheney sanctioned torture!

    We are a Nation of Laws and Justice......... for ALL. NO ONE is above the law, least of all the president who SWORE AN OATH to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America!

    I can not believe that anyone, would actually want war criminals to go on with their lives as if they did nothing wrong!


    April 23, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. The Broker.

    "I don't know, you tell me.".... Paranoia is Wick! Why? Because your idiot Obama is insecure: with his own Muslims! Who can stand on his own merrit today. Black is in! White is out... They will continue to praise this idiot for nothing.. Or you are a Racist....

    April 23, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  16. Joe Unger, San Francisco

    Funny how Obama is saying I only followed orders is an excuse not to be prosecuted.
    Unfortunately, Obama's inexperience is showing again. He didn't want to go after Bush because it would stall his agenda no matter what you Bushhaters thought, but then he stirred things up by declassifying documents on the torture. Then, like a bigger fool, he hinted at possibly going after Bush higherups. That rachets up the yelling from the Bush haters and the media plays to their anger.
    Rest assured Obama will not have any Bush higherups go to prison; if he lets things get too far, he will pardon them. It's not that he doesn't think prision is justified, it's that it will hamper his ability to get his agenda done.
    When will you ultra-liberals realize Obama only wanted your vote, not your attitude? Don't believe me, watch and see.

    April 23, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  17. Donna from Colorado Springs

    I'm surprised it took McCain so long to put his two cent into this controversy, and he said exactly what I thought he would say. All of those Republicans have a basic script that they read when they want to whine about the President or something he's said or done. They really need to get over their estimation of themselves and how important what they say is. Of course they don't want their buddies to be prosecuted, but this would not be a witch hunt, as McCain said. What they did was evil and they should be prosecuted like any other criminal would

    April 23, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  18. Scott AZ

    And in 2013 it will the the Republicans turn to hold a witch hunt on Obama and his people. So when does this nonsense ends?

    This BS by the Dem's appears to be nothing more than a smokescreen to dodge the real issues of the day like Obama's debt and pork ridden spending bill, cover for two corrupt female democrats along with the Fannie-mae Freddie-mac trio i.e. Frank, Dodd and Schummer.

    April 23, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  19. Erin

    Has anyone else noticed that the timely release of these memos has the country talking about torture - instead of the budget? Does anyone else think that the media should be telling us what is being discussed in Congress concerning the budget? Don't they have to cut about a trillion dollars in spending to balance it? I think that we need to be focused on what is important now. Obama already "outlawed" torture. Who did what and when in this case is not an emergency that should require immediate action. The budget, on the other hand, impacts all of us and should have our (and Congress's) undivided attention right now. Is it really prudent right now to spend who knows how many hours and dollars with "inquiries," when we still have the economic crisis?

    April 23, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  20. arithmetic is liberal

    Robert April 23rd, 2009 3:43 pm ET

    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.

    So, by your rationale, the Nazis marching across the face of the earth and slaughtering over 10 million civilians they didn't like and then another 5 million soldiers on top of it does not warrant torture.

    By somehow 16 Middle Eastern suicidal aviators knocking over a few buildings does?

    And if you think that what I said diminishes the impact of September 11th, what exactly do you think betraying our long cherished morals does for those people who died?

    If we torture, the terrorists win, and they all died in vain.

    April 23, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  21. Zion

    Go Pres. Obama, bring these GOONS to justice. When the Bush Administration was hunting people of color, no one complained.

    April 23, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  22. Fitz in Texas

    Many members in Congress (Democrats) knew of this waterboarding etc. They were in the loop. They approved of it. We'll watch the Democrats blame it all on Bush at first, then the Democrats will blame the Republicans and in the end we'll watch the Democrats eat their own.

    April 23, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  23. Nobody is Above the Law

    Nothing is going to stop this now. And for someone to say the next Republican president is going to have a trial on Obama "for whatever bad things he does", FINE! Obama is TRANSPARENT and actually understands and FOLLOWS the Constitution. If Bush and his buddies followed the Constitution I'm sure they wouldn't be shaking in their boots right now.

    April 23, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  24. no need to know

    All intelligent people are not interested in what John McCain, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Bill Bennett, Condolezza Rice or any other Republican thinks or says because they have proven to be unintelligent when it comes to government. Let them talk to their choirs! People of misguided intelligence!

    April 23, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  25. John in Ohio

    Good. Torture is a war crimes. War crimes must be prosecuted.

    April 23, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
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