The death of Osama bin Laden changes many things, but not how Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., feels about the use of torture to gather information. Having been held captive himself for more than five years in North Vietnam, McCain is steadfast in his belief that “enhanced interrogation” should not be used by the United States. For him, it’s a moral issue, but also a practical one.
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear—true or false—if he believes it will relieve his suffering,” McCain wrote in a Thursday op-ed for The Washington Post. “Often, information provided to stop the torture is deliberately misleading.”
McCain also pointed out that there is no proof that any of the information that led to the killing of bin Laden came from enhanced interrogation. Any claims that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been waterboarded 183 times, provided clues to bin Laden’s whereabouts are baseless, McCain says. But even if some information comes from such practices, McCain says it’s more important for the United States to set an example for the rest of the world—especially with revolutions in the Middle East.
“As we debate how the United States can best influence the course of the Arab Spring, can’t we all agree that the most obvious thing we can do is stand as an example of a nation that holds an individual’s human rights as superior to the will of the majority or the wishes of government?” he writes.
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