NBC Cheers John McCain 'Denouncing Torture' of Terror Detainees

On Thursday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams incredulously noted how "...it's become fashionable among some to say...that so-called enhanced interrogation, what some define as torture...helped contribute to the death of bin Laden." He then touted: "Today Senator John McCain headed to the floor of the U.S. Senate to refute that."

In the clip that followed, McCain declared: "In my personal experience, the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence, but often produces bad intelligence. Because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear whether it is true or false." He then asserted: "The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee was obtained through standard non-coercive means."

That would seem to fly in the face of what CIA Director Leon Panetta told Williams in a May 3 interview. Williams asked: "Can you confirm that it was as a result of waterboarding that we learned what we needed to learn to go after bin Laden?" After some further prodding, Panetta admitted: "I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees."

Speaking to CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric the same day, Panetta acknowledged: "Obviously there was- there was some valuable information that was derived through those kinds of interrogations."

On Thursday, Williams seemed to forget all of that as he used McCain's words in an attempt to discredit proponents of enhanced interrogation.

Here is a full transcript of the May 12 segment:

7:08AM ET  

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Since the death of bin Laden, it's become fashionable among some to say, in Washington and elsewhere, that so-called enhanced interrogation, what some define as torture, worked in this case, that it helped contribute to the death of bin Laden. Today Senator John McCain headed to the floor of the U.S. Senate to refute that. Of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate, McCain was the only one who was tortured, as a POW in Vietnam. Today he repeated his longstanding belief that torture is wrong.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Denouncing Torture]

JOHN MCCAIN: In my personal experience, the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence, but often produces bad intelligence. Because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear whether it is true or false, if he believes it will relieve his suffering.

I opposed waterboarding and similar so-called enhanced interrogation techniques before Osama bin Laden was brought to justice and I oppose them now. The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee was obtained through standard non-coercive means, not through any enhanced interrogation technique.

This is not about the terrorists, it's about us. But I dispute that it was right to use these methods, which I do not believe were in the best interest of justice or our security or the ideals that define us. And which we have sacrificed much to defend.

WILLIAMS: Arizona Republican Senator, Vietnam veteran John McCain in his own words, the floor of the Senate today.      

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC