U.S. Loses Key Interrogation Tool Under McCain Compromise

Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) appears to have won a significant concession from the Bush Administration and his GOP allies in Congress on the CIA’s ability to interrogate al Qaeda terrorists.

Questioning whether the senator and his supporters had possibly caved on the issue, NBC’s Matt Lauer asked McCain directly on the September 22 “Today” show: "Why didn’t you guys stand up and take a stand on specifics? Why didn’t you say, look, OK, there have been reports, for example, with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, that at these secret CIA centers that he was water-boarded. We will not let that stand, Mr. President."

McCain’s immediate response: "We’ve said exactly that. There will be no such thing as waterboarding. We outlined the grave breaches of conduct and you will never see that again." (What other interrogation methods were eliminated to appease McCain are still

What makes McCain’s boast significant is that there are well-founded reports that the CIA has received life-saving information from high-level al Qaeda terrorists — including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11 — who were subjected to this coercive technique. Under this treatment, a suspected terrorist is put upside down, his mouth covered with cloth or cellophane, and has water poured into his nose. The technique, which produces a drowning sensation, normally causes the subject to begin talking within minutes. The technique is used on only the most hardened terrorists.

The effectiveness of this technique on terrorists was revealed September 20 on "The O’Reilly Factor," hosted by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly interviewed Brian Ross, chief investigative correspondent for ABC News. Here are some relevant portions of that interview.

O’REILLY: "Now you say that the CIA broke 14 top al Qaeda leaders, 14, is that correct?”

ROSS: "And 14 high valued leaders, they have kept in secret prisons. And they have used these coercive techniques. …"

O’REILLY: "Now the water boarding broke all these guys?"

ROSS: "Not in every case. Some broke before [it] even got to that point."

O’REILLY: "OK, some, when they kept them up, or they played live music, or they kept them in a cold room."

ROSS: "The start with a slap, then a slap on the chest, and then the cold room, sleep deprivation, which seems to be the most effective. But for some, the water boarding is what it took."

O’REILLY: "OK, now you say the guy who held out the longest was Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who is the alleged mastermind behind 9/11."

ROSS: "That’s right."

O’REILLY: "How long did he last?"

ROSS: "About two-and-a-half minutes, according to our CIA sources. …"

O’REILLY: "So, in all 14 cases, coerced interrogation methods, being debated in; the Senate right now, were used. … Now the opposition, you just heard it.
Human Rights Watch, ACLU, say it’s garbage. They [those subjected to this treatment] told them what they wanted to hear. …"

ROSS: "That has happened in some cases where the material that’s been given us has not been accurate, has been essentially to stop the torture. In the case of Khalid Sheik Muhammad, the information was very valuable, particularly names and addresses of people who were involved with al Qaeda in this country and in Europe. And in one particular plot, which would involve an airline attack on the tallest building in Los Angeles, known as the Library Tower."

O’REILLY: "Well, in fact, you say in your report that more than a dozen plots, a dozen al Qaeda plots to kill people were stopped because of the information they got from coerced interrogation?"

ROSS: "That’s what we were told by sources."

O’REILLY: "Do you believe that?"

ROSS: "I do believe that."

O’REILLY: "Couldn’t they be misleading you? …"

ROSS: "Well, Bill, in some of these cases, people talk to us because they actually opposed the techniques."

O’REILLY: "Oh, is that right?"

ROSS: "They didn’t like them. But nevertheless, they recognized that they worked."