John McCain has made a career standing up to his own party – at least that’s what he and his admirers like to say about the self-proclaimed “maverick.” Despite some notable momentary afflictions of conscience – like when he voted to spare ObamaCare from execution in the Senate – the plain truth is that, on most issues, he’s been a tragically faithful Republican.
But there’s one issue for which he has consistently stood on the right side of history, regardless of the political climate, and that’s his firm belief in the evils and futility of torture – something he courageously learned first hand in the torture chambers of North Vietnam.
During the presidency of George W. Bush, Sen. McCain criticized the Republican administration for its fast and loose policies on torture. These policies, instituted after September 11th, gave the CIA legal cover to torture suspected terrorists under the guise of what Bush’s lawyers termed “enhanced interrogation.” It also green-lit the opening of a veritable archipelago of secret “Black Site” prisons around the world in which to conduct “enhanced interrogation” methods like waterboarding on suspected terrorists.
In the weeks and months since President Trump named someone at the center of those controversial institutional practices – to put it mildly – to succeed current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the Director of the CIA, Sen. McCain has rediscovered his “maverick” voice of the Bush era.
McCain, currently home in Arizona battling the late stages of brain cancer, issued a statement today opposing the appointment of Gina Haspel, who oversaw the “enhanced interrogation” of numerous prisoners at a “Black Site” prison in Thailand.
You can read Senator McCain’s scathing statement in its entirety below, and let’s just say, he hasn’t lost a step:
“Today, Gina Haspel testified before the Senate and to the country about her qualifications to lead the CIA. This occasion provided an opportunity to provide details about her experience in the CIA, explain her involvement in the so-called enhanced interrogation program during the Bush Administration, and account for the mistakes the country made in torturing detainees held in U.S. custody after the September 11th attacks.Unfortunately, the testimony the American people heard from Ms. Haspel today failed to address these concerns.
“I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense. However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing.
“Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying,” he added. “I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”
Sadly, Sen. McCain’s cancer will most likely keep him from leaving Arizona to register his “no” vote in the record when Ms. Haspel’s nomination ultimately advances to the entire Senate for approval. Even more tragically, however, is that his principled opposition is unlikely to matter. With Democratic Senator Joe Manchin announcing his intention to vote “yes” in support of Haspel’s confirmation, her ultimate ascension to the top of America’s intelligence community is all but assured.