A recently released legal document regarding torture quotes U.S. Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war himself, may have made comments that were instrumental in helping to justify a six-day course of sleep deprivation, among other torture methods, for a CIA prisoner in November 2007. But John McCain claims he was woefully misunderstood by the Bush Administration.
The memo recounts McCain’s reaction this way:
“[S]everal Members of Congress, including the full memberships of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and Senator McCain, were briefed by General Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, on the six techniques that we discuss herein,” writes Steven G. Bradbury, a deputy assistant attorney general in the July 20, 2007, memo, which cites a CIA summary of the discussions.
“In those classified and private conversations, none of the Members expressed the view that the CIA detention and interrogation program should be stopped, or that the techniques at issue were inappropriate.”
A spokeswoman for McCain said that contrary to those claims, the Arizona Republican repeatedly raised objections in private meetings, including one with Hayden, about the use of sleep deprivation as an interrogation technique.
“Senator McCain clearly made the case that he was opposed to unduly coercive techniques, especially when used in combination or taken too far – including sleep deprivation,” says Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for McCain.
An aide to McCain said that in meetings with Hayden and others, McCain raised the story of Orson Swindle, a friend of McCain’s who suffered forced sleep deprivation through stress positions as a captive of the North Vietnamese. During his last presidential campaign, McCain repeatedly spoke publicly of prolonged sleep deprivation as a form of torture.
A former senior intelligence official familiar with Hayden’s discussions with Congress also told Time that Bradbury’s characterization of the discussions was incomplete – but in a different way.
“Hayden didn’t go to the committees seeking approval for the techniques; he was simply seeking guidance,” says the official. “There was no singular view from the committees. There were people who wanted us out of the counterterrorism business, and there were people who said, ‘Why aren’t we still doing waterboarding?’”
The official says Hayden had one short meeting with McCain, in the Senate cloakroom, but doesn’t recall the details of that discussion. But, the official adds, “Hayden has never claimed that the committees told him, “You’re good to go, no problem.” A CIA spokesperson declined to comment on the dispute.