[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 23 (Tuesday, February 9, 2016)]
[Pages S716-S717]


  Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, today is the 100th New Hampshire 
Presidential primary. Regardless of who wins, this is a celebration of 
our vibrant democracy of engaged citizens putting candidates to the 
test and demanding answers on the tough issues the next President will 
  It is also another important step in choosing our next Commander in 
Chief, and the stakes couldn't be higher. As we heard from the Director 
of National Intelligence this morning, the threats to our Nation are 
growing more diverse, more complex, and more dangerous. More than ever 
we need a Commander in Chief with a clear vision, a steady hand, sound 
judgment and confidence--not only in our Nation's power but in the 
values and ideals that generations of American heroes have fought for 
and died defending.
  That is why it has been so disappointing to see some Presidential 
candidates engaged in loose talk on the campaign trail about reviving 
waterboarding and other inhumane interrogation techniques. It might be 
easy to dismiss this bluster as cheap campaign rhetoric, but these 
statements must not go unanswered because they mislead the American 
people about the realities of interrogation, how to gather 
intelligence, what it takes to defend our security, and at the most 
fundamental level, what we are fighting for as a nation and what kind 
of a nation we are.
  It is important to remember the fact that these forms of torture not 
only failed their purpose to secure actionable intelligence to prevent 
further attacks on the United States and our allies, but they 
compromised our values, stained our national honor, and did little 
practical good. While some have shamefully sought to minimize the 
practice of waterboarding, it is clear to me that this practice, which 
is a simulated execution by drowning, amounts to torture as any 
reasonable person would define it and how the Geneva Conventions on the 
treatment of prisoners of war, of which we are signatories, define it.
  The use of these methods by the United States was shameful and 
unnecessary because the United States has tried, convicted, and 
executed foreign combatants who employed methods of torture, including 
waterboarding, against American prisoners of war. Following World War 
II, Japanese generals were tried, convicted, and hung. One of the 
charges against them was that they practiced waterboarding. Contrary to 
assertions made by some of the defenders, it provided little useful 
intelligence to help us track down the perpetrators of the September 11 
attacks or to prevent new attacks and atrocities.
  This Senator knows from personal experience that the abuse of 
prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that 
victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if 
they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever 
they think their torturers will want them to say if they believe it 
will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know that the use of torture 
compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies--our 
belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human 
rights that are protected by international conventions the United 
States not only joined but for the most part authored.
  I understand that in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attacks on 
our homeland, those who approved harsh interrogation methods and those 
who used them were sincerely dedicated to securing justice for the 
victims of terrorist attacks and protecting Americans from further 
harm. I know that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris 
and San Bernardino, many Americans feel again the grave urgency that we 
felt 15 years ago. But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for 
our Nation to use these interrogation methods then or that it is right 
for our Nation to use them now.
  Waterboarding, as well as any other form of torture, is not in the 
best interest of justice, security or the ideals

[[Page S717]]

we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend.
  It is the knowledge of torture's dubious efficacy and the strong 
moral objections to the abuse of prisoners that have forged broad 
bipartisan agreement on this issue. Last year, the Senate passed in an 
overwhelming vote of 91 to 3 the National Defense Authorization Act for 
fiscal year 2016, legislation that took a historic step forward to ban 
torture once and for all by limiting U.S. Government interrogation 
techniques to those in the Army Field Manual. That vote was 91 to 3. 
There was debate and discussion about it in the Armed Services 
Committee and on the floor of this Senate. The vote was 91 to 3.

  Now candidates are saying they will disregard the law. I thought that 
was our complaint--Republicans' complaint--with the present President 
of the United States.
  The U.S. military has successfully interrogated more foreign 
terrorist detainees than any other agency of our government. The Army 
Field Manual, in its current form, has worked for the U.S. military--
including on high-value terrorist detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and 
elsewhere--and it reflects current best thinking and practices on 
  Moreover, the Army Field Manual embodies the values Americans have 
embraced for generations, preserving the ability of our interrogators 
to extract critical intelligence from our adversaries while recognizing 
that torture and cruel treatment are ineffective interrogation methods.
  Some of the Nation's most respected leaders from the U.S. military, 
CIA, and FBI supported this legislation, as well as numerous human 
rights organizations and faith groups, including the National 
Association of Evangelicals and the U.S. Conference of Catholic 
  GEN David Petraeus, a military leader whom I admire more than 
literally any living military leader, said he supported the use of the 
Army Field Manual because ``our Nation has paid a high price in recent 
decades for the information gained by the use of techniques beyond 
those in the field manual--and, in my view, that price far outweighed 
the value of the information gained through the use of techniques 
beyond those in the manual.'' Obviously, that includes waterboarding.
  Why don't we listen to people like GEN David Petraeus, who has had 
vast experience in Iraq and Afghanistan with detainees, the information 
we have gotten from them, and our practices. If General Petraeus were 
here, he would tell you the most effective method of gaining 
information is establishing a friendly relationship with the detainee.
  Obviously, we need intelligence to defeat our enemies, but we need 
reliable intelligence. Torture produces more misleading information 
than actionable intelligence. What the advocates of harsh and cruel 
interrogation methods have never established is that we couldn't have 
gathered as good or more reliable intelligence from using humane 
methods. The most important lead we got in the search for bin Laden 
came from using conventional interrogation methods. I think it is an 
insult to many of the intelligence officers who have acquired good 
intelligence without hurting or degrading prisoners to assert that we 
cannot win this war on terrorism without such methods. Yes, we can and 
we will.
  In the end, torture's failure to serve its intended purpose isn't the 
main reason to oppose its use. I have often said and will always 
maintain that this question isn't about our enemies, it is about us. It 
is about who we were, who we are, and whom we aspire to be. It is about 
how we represent ourselves to the world.
  We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by 
just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests but by exemplifying 
our political values and influencing other nations to embrace them. 
When we fight to defend our security, we fight also for an idea that 
all men are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights; that is, 
all men and women. How much safer the world would be if all nations 
believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget 
it ourselves, even momentarily, as we learned from Abu Ghraib. Our 
enemies act without conscience. We must not. It isn't necessary, and it 
isn't even helpful in winning this strange and long war we are 
  Our Nation needs a Commander in Chief who understands and affirms 
this basic truth. Our Nation needs a Commander in Chief who will make 
clear to those who fight on our behalf that they are defending this 
sacred ideal and that sacrificing our national honor and our respect 
for human dignity will make it harder, not easier, to prevail in this 
war. Our Nation needs a Commander in Chief who reminds us that in the 
worst of times, through the chaos and terror of war, when facing 
cruelty, suffering, and loss, that we are always Americans--different, 
stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.
  I yield the floor.