Parsing McCain’s Interrogation Position

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I have a new story up at about John McCain’s position on waterboarding and other harsh interrogation politics. One interesting thing I turned up: A 2005 proposal from McCain’s staff that took the same position on applying the Army Field Manual to the CIA that he now opposes in the Senate. To wit:

In the spring of 2005, McCain began the process of formulating legislation to prevent a use of such extreme techniques and some of the sanctioned abuses at Abu Ghraib. Initially, McCain’s staff proposed and circulated a bill remarkably similar to the Democratic language McCain now opposes. In a draft proposal, dated May 17, 2005, and obtained by TIME, McCain’s staff specifically outlined a plan to make the Army Field Manual “the basis for a uniform standard adhered to by all elements of the United States Government.” Another section said that no person under U.S. control could be treated or interrogated with techniques “not authorized by or listed in” the manual. But in the end, after consultation with fellow senators and others, McCain and his staff did not adopt this draft language.

The early proposal was never made public. Just a few months later, McCain did go public with legislation that limited just the military (and not the CIA) to the field manual techniques, while making it clear that the CIA still had to abide by international law prohibiting cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Since then, McCain has been consistent in his position, even though the Bush Administration officially continues to reject his (not to mention most independent experts’) interpretation about what constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.