Tag Archives: waterboarding

Sen. McCain weighs in on CIA nominee: vote ‘no’

U.S. Sen. John McCain is a bystander in the drama unfolding in Washington regarding Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Arizona Republican, though, is no ordinary cheap-seat chump. He is battling brain cancer and likely won’t get to vote on Gina Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA. He also knows more than your average American politician about torture.

Haspel declined this week to answer a question from Sen. Kamala Harris, who demanded a yes-or-no response: Do you believe torture is immoral. Haspel didn’t provide the answer that Harris wanted. Haspel took part in “enhanced interrogation” of enemy combatants while working as a deep-cover agent for the CIA.

McCain said Haspel’s non-response to Harris’s question is a deal-breaker and he has urged his Senate colleagues to vote “no” on her nomination.

I won’t join the senator in calling for the Senate to reject Haspel’s nomination. But I do understand his belief that torture is not in keeping with who we are as a nation. He knows of which he speaks.

McCain was a Navy aviator when he was shot down in 1967 over Hanoi, North Vietnam. He parachuted during the Vietnam War into a lake and was taken captive. He spent the next five-plus years as a prisoner of war. He was tortured, held in solitary confinement for years on end. He has never recovered fully from the injuries he suffered when he was shot down or from the injuries inflicted by his captors.

So, when Sen. McCain says torture is wrong, I listen carefully to what he says. I happen to agree with him and I disagree vehemently with what Donald J. Trump said while campaigning for the presidency, which is that waterboarding doesn’t go far enough in trying to extract actionable intelligence from our enemies.

I’m still pondering my own thoughts about Haspel’s nomination. I like the fact that she’s a career spook who knows the ins and outs of the agency she has been asked to lead. I am troubled by her inability or unwillingness to declare her view on the morality or immorality of torture as an interrogation technique.

If there is a moral authority on torture among today’s crop of U.S. politicians, it would be Sen. John McCain.

‘Smart Person’ defers to ‘Mad Dog’ on torture

Donald “Smart Person” Trump is becoming the master of mixed signals as he settles into his new job as president of the United States.

He said in one breath that he intends to bring back waterboarding as a form of “enhanced interrogation” — which is a euphemism for “torture.”

In the next breath he said he’ll defer to Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog”¬†Mattis on the matter. Mad Dog says waterboarding is torture and he won’t allow it.

So, which is it? Torture or no torture of enemy combatants who are captured on the battlefield in our nation’s ongoing war against international terrorism.

I’m thinking “Mad Dog’s” notion is more in line with American values. We don’t torture enemy combatants to extract information from them. Why? Such tactics don’t work.

None other than U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — who knows a thing or two about torture owing to his years as a Vietnam prisoner of war — calls waterboarding a form of torture. It doesn’t work. Those who are being subjected to such tactics will say anything to get their captors to stop the practice, McCain says.

Trump has told us that the bad guys are “cutting people’s heads off” and that it’s time we responded with our own torture tactics. What utter manure. We are better than our enemies and we stand firm behind the principle that we shall not resort to torture tactics.

Are there other forms of “enhanced interrogation” that do not rely on torture? Surely, yes. Let’s use them and avoid the tactic that Mad Dog Mattis said he won’t allow as long as he is calling the shots at the Pentagon.

New defense boss breaks with commander in chief-to-be

Imagine that … the man picked to lead the Defense Department thinks Russia is our No. 1 worldwide adversary and he’s sounding a good bit more anti-Kremlin than the man who nominated him, Donald J. Trump.

What’s going on here? Sanity is breaking out within the budding Trump administration.

Trump’s CIA director-designate, Mike Pompeo, calls waterboarding a form of “torture” and says he would refuse to obey a direct order to invoke “enhanced interrogation” techniques on enemy captives. Trump campaigned on a pledge to restore waterboarding.

Now we hear from Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis, who tells us that Russia is our top adversary and that the United States should honor the nuclear arms-production agreement it struck with Iran. Let’s see: Trump is buddies with Vladimir Putin and he says he’ll tear up the Iran nuke treaty when he takes office.

Mattis isn’t too keen on either matter, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.


Mattis is a retired Marine Corps general with plenty of combat experience. The man is a plain-spoken, in-your-face general-grade officer.

He said this about the Iran nuclear deal: “I think it is in an imperfect arms control agreement ‚ÄĒ it‚Äôs not a friendship treaty.¬†But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.‚ÄĚ

I’m beginning to believe Trump might be surrounding himself with at least a couple of reasonable minds on his national security team.

He will need their wise counsel. I hope the hothead/know-it-all/commander in chief chooses to heed it.

Sanity emerges from among one of Trump’s picks

How about this, folks?

The man picked to be the next CIA director said today that he would “absolutely not” follow a direct order to torture enemy combatants in the search for information from them.

That includes waterboarding, according to Kansas U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, who is Donald Trump’s pick to be the nation’s head spook.


I’ve been hoping to be able to speak well of a Trump appointee. Rep. Pompeo has given me the opportunity.

Pompeo is known to be a combative fellow. He struck a reasonable and moderate tone today as he testified before a Senate committee that is considering his pick to lead the CIA.

He doesn’t envision the new president issuing an order to torture enemy prisoner, Pompeo said under questioning from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. I hope he is correct in his assumption about the new commander in chief.

Certain forms of torture have been referred to euphemistically as “enhanced interrogation techniques.” According to The Hill: Asked if he could commit to senators that the CIA is ‚Äúout of the enhanced interrogation business,‚ÄĚ Pompeo affirmed that, ‚ÄúYou have my full commitment.”

The new CIA boss will need to held accountable to that pledge.

I’m glad he made it.

Listen to Sen. McCain; he knows torture when he sees it


I have leveled my share of criticism at U.S. Sen. John McCain over the years.

However, when it comes to an issue with which he has intimate knowledge, I defer to the Arizona Republican every time the issue comes up.

The man knows torture. He endured it during his more than five years as a captive of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

When this heroic American says that waterboarding is “torture” and that the United States need not torture captives taken in battle, well, he needs to be heard.

The president-elect once denigrated McCain’s service during the Vietnam War — which the next president managed to avoid through several deferments. Donald J. Trump once said famously that McCain was a “hero” only because he was “captured. I like people who aren’t captured, OK?”

McCain has made a stern vow: The United States will not waterboard prisoners. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do. We will not waterboard,‚ÄĚ McCain told an audience at the annual Halifax International Security Forum. ‚ÄúWe will not torture people ‚Ķ It doesn‚Äôt work”


I get that McCain lost badly to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign. I did not vote for him. However, I also honor this man’s service during the Vietnam War. He was subjected to unbelievable torture tactics after he was shot down over Hanoi in 1967.

When¬†this war hero¬†says¬†waterboarding doesn’t work, I believe him.

The United States has plenty of “enhanced interrogation” techniques at its disposal to glean intelligence from captives that do not involve torture. Must we resort to tactics used by our enemies? No. We’re far better than that.

Ex-CIA boss trashes Trump, Cruz


No one, as far as I can tell, ever has accused Michael Hayden of being a squishy moderate or liberal.

The retired Air Force general led the Central Intelligence Agency during the George W. Bush presidential administration. He knows foreign policy as well as anyone.

Gen. Hayden thinks very little of the credentials of two of the leading Republicans running for president. Imagine that.

Hayden has ripped Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for differing reasons, but the common thread lies in their misunderstanding of what it takes to conduct foreign policy.

The general was critical of Trump’s pledge to bring back waterboarding as an interrogation technique to use on terror suspects.

Trump said: “Believe me, it works. And you know what? If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing. It works.”

Hayden’s response is that the United States doesn’t use certain techniques on suspects because they “deserve it.” He calls Trump’s view of waterboarding a gross misunderstanding of how and why U.S. employ certain tactics against individuals suspected of doing harm.

And what about Sen. Ted Cruz’s pledge to “carpet bomb” Islamic State targets? Hayden calls it “inhumane” and not in keeping with U.S. principles. Cruz once vowed to see if he could get “sand to glow in the dark.”

These tough-talk pledges from individuals seeking the presidency need to be revealed for what they are: reckless bravado aimed at firing up people’s anger and fear.

Gen. Hayden has been at the center of the very issues that candidates such as Trump and Cruz use as political rally applause lines.



Torture returns to the political debate arena


It’s back. Torture has made its return as an issue¬†being discussed by presidential candidates.

Donald J. Trump has dredged it from the has-been issue pile, saying something about how he would order the waterboarding of bad guys in order to get information from them.

Don’t do it, says someone who knows a thing or three about torture.

I prefer to stand with the expert on these things. That would be U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who lost the presidency in the 2008 campaign to fellow Sen. Barack Obama.

What’s a bit ironic, of course, is that McCain and Trump would be at loggerheads over this issue. Why the irony? You’ll recall that one of Trump’s initial insults was tossed in McCain’s direction when he said that the senator is a war hero only because he got captured by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War and that he (Trump) preferred people “who weren’t captured, OK?”

Here they are again. McCain has long opposed the use of waterboarding as an “enhanced interrogation” technique. He calls it torture, which he believes breaks faith with American principles.

What does McCain now about torture? More than most Americans ever will know, and certainly far more than Donald Trump knows about it.

McCain’s five-plus years as a captive after being shot down during the Vietnam War included many years of torture: beatings, solitary confinement and the communists’ various versions of “enhanced interrogation.”

When the senior senator from Arizona calls a particular act a form of torture, well, I am inclined to believe him.

I am doing so in this particular exchange.

He’s right as well to suggest that the information gleaned from waterboarding has been sketchy at best and has not provided nearly as much actionable intelligence as has been suggested.

Sen. McCain isn’t speaking as some soft-pedaling, squishy, politically correct liberal. He speaks as someone who’s been straight to hell and back.


GOP fires back at torture report

To no one’s surprise, U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Republicans have their own version of whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” made America safer in the wake of 9/11.

They say the tactics saved lives and protected the country against further harm.

The GOP senators say the tactics were necessary to gather intelligence that led eventually to the killing of Osama bin Laden.


Intelligence panel Democrats are standing by their assertion — correctly, in my view — that American intelligence officials and military leaders could have obtained all of that information and protected Americans without subjecting terror suspects to torture.

So there it is: yet another political schism has erupted on Capitol Hill.

As Politico reports: “The GOP report decried the (Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne) Feinstein study, arguing that it contained ‘faulty analysis, serious inaccuracies, and misrepresentations of fact’ to create a series of false conclusions about the counterterrorism program‚Äôs effectiveness and the CIA‚Äôs interactions with Congress and the White House.”

So, the other side has responded with what it contends is accurate analysis and objective examination of the facts. Is that what they’re saying?

I’ve noted already that this discussion is going to turn into a liar’s contest over time. One side is going to accuse the other of deceit. It’ll go back and forth.

I’ll just stick to my assertion that “enhanced interrogation” can — and should — include tactics that do not include¬†the physical torturing of¬†enemy captives. I’d even¬†allow for sleep deprivation¬†that would include¬†round-the-clock badgering of¬†detainees¬†as a way to make ’em squeal.

Still, the debate rages on.

U.S. must not rely on torture

An upcoming release of a CIA report on whether American officials tortured al-Qaeda suspects to gain “actionable intelligence” to use in the war on terror is bound to reignite a long-standing debate.

Are we better than that? Does the United States of America need to rely on barbaric procedures to gain the upper hand against the enemy?


My own mind is made up on that matter.

I do not believe the United State should torture enemy captives.

We’ll hear from those who say, “Big deal. They do it to us. An eye for an eye. Give them a taste of what they deliver to our own captives.” I can hear it from some of my very own friends on the subject and they’ll respond that way when they read these words.

I’ll stand by my assertion that this country is supposed to stand for grander ideals than the enemy we are fighting. We proclaim it all the time, don’t we?

Whether the¬†tactics employed right after the 9/11 attacks — as lined out in the report — produced the kind of information that enabled us to find and¬†kill Osama bin Laden also will be open to debate. Some say it did. Other say it didn’t.

Then we’ll hear the¬†debate over how¬†to define “torture.” Does the term “enhanced interrogation techniques” actually become a¬†euphemism for the “t” word?

It’ll be a complicated debate. For the sake of¬†our country’s stated belief in¬†a higher ideal, though, I do hope we can declare¬†once again, with emphasis, that¬†torture is¬†wrong and will not be tolerated.


Torture report to cause some grief

A controversial report is due out Tuesday. It’s going to raise some hackles here and likely over there — meaning the Middle East.

It’s going to detail how the U.S. government used “enhanced interrogation” techniques on terror suspects immediately after the 9/11 attacks. It’s also likely to report that military officials gained little, if any, actionable intelligence from the techniques that included sleep deprivation and waterboarding.

How will the Middle East react? Probably badly, some folks fear.

Well, let them gnash their teeth.

I’ll await the release of the report before commenting in too much detail on it.

However, I do want to refer to comments made by a U.S. senator who knows a thing or two about torture.

Republican John McCain was held captive in North Vietnam for more than five years during the Vietnam War. The enemy subjected him to unimaginable pain through torture.

McCain once said the United States shouldn’t torture captives. He knows of what he speaks. He also believes the U.S. employed torture techniques on al-Qaeda terror suspects.

He condemned the action.

The world awaits this CIA report.