Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Tuesday gave a stirring speech against the torture of detainees after the 9/11 attacks, following the release of a Senate report that found the CIA’s interrogation methods were harsher than the agency led lawmakers and the public to believe and did not produce valuable information.
McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said on the Senate floor that his personal experience has shown abused prisoners offer up more bad than good, or even deliberately misleading, intelligence.
“Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies,” he said. “Our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights which are protected by international conventions, [which] the United States not only joined but for the most part, authored.”
McCain did acknowledge that the CIA resorted to extreme interrogation techniques with the goal of protecting Americans, but argued the ends didn’t justify those means.
“I dispute wholeheartedly it was right for [CIA officers] to use these methods, which this report makes clear were neither in the best interest of justice, nor our security, nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend,” he said.
Many of McCain’s Republican colleagues opposed the release of the report. Incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) denounced it as harmful to national security, while McCain’s ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called the timing of its release “politically motivated.”
But the Arizona Republican said he believes officials who object to the release of the Senate report just don’t want the finding that so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” produced no helpful intelligence to finally come to light.
“I suspect the objection of those same officials to the release of this report is really focused on that disclosure: torture’s ineffectiveness,” McCain said.
“We gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer,” he added. “Too much.”
Read McCain’s full remarks here, and watch a portion of the speech below: