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May 17, 2011

Use of Torture

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Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, there was a column written in this morning's

[Page: S2901]  GPO's PDF
Washington Post which was extraordinary. It was written by one of our Republican colleagues, Senator John McCain of Arizona.

John McCain and I came to the House of Representatives in the same year--1983. Though he came to the Senate first, we have worked on many things together over the years. We have our differences, that is for sure. But there are times when John does extraordinarily good things, and this morning was one of them. He wrote a column in the Washington Post about the issue of torture. It is an issue that has been in the headlines for the last 2 weeks, after the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden and the questions raised as to whether so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, or torture in another parlance, were used to obtain information that led to Osama bin Laden.

A few years ago, that issue came up on the floor of the Senate. I had strong feelings about it. But Senator McCain stepped up and led the effort to put the Senate and our government on record that we were opposed to the use of torture. No person is better qualified in this Congress to speak to it than Senator McCain. He was a victim of torture himself when he served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam war. He was shot down as a naval aviator and spent more than 5 years in prison. I cannot imagine what that must have been like. Couple that with the severe physical injuries he still labors with today and the torture--mental and physical--that accompanied it, and no person is as well qualified as Senator McCain to speak to it.

This morning, in the Washington Post, he once again stated what may not be the popular view but I believe is the right view--that the United States should make it clear we do not accept torture as a standard for our conduct when it comes to dealing with our enemies. For the longest time, that has been our standard. It was only relaxed or changed after 9/11, when some in a previous administration argued that was the only way to get information from these hard-core terrorists.

Senator McCain made a good point in his article this morning in the Washington Post. He asked Leon Panetta, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, whether there was any linkage to these enhanced interrogation techniques and the information that led to the disclosure of the messenger who was then linked to Osama bin Laden which led to his capture. Leon Panetta said no, and MCCAIN revealed that in his article. In fact, the information which came out of waterboarding one of these terrorists ended up being just plain wrong. Senator McCain made the point in his article, when you are being tortured, you will say almost anything to make the torture stop. You will lie, if you have to, just to make it stop. That is what happened here.

So I wish to commend him. It was courageous for him to write that article this morning--not very popular but right. I wish to thank John on behalf of both sides of the Senate aisle for his leadership and for having the courage to speak out on such an important issue relative to the values of America and who we are.

He ended his column talking about how we would expect our troops to be treated if they were taken prisoner. If anyone tortured an American soldier, I don't know of a single American who wouldn't step forward and say it is an outrage. Well, if we are going to stand for humane treatment, sensible treatment of detainees, then we are doing it not only to protect our values but to protect our men and women who serve this country both in the intelligence agencies and in the military services.

(Senate - May 12, 2011)

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