Key Republican senators yesterday defended the Bush administration’s opposition to issuing guidelines on interrogation techniques, saying that doing so would aid terrorists because extracting information requires fear of the unknown.
Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the proposal by Sen. John McCain would “sanction a manual yet to be written with a classified annex clearly pointing out to the military what they can and cannot do.”
“You’re only successful with detention and interrogation when the detainee has a fear of the unknown, doesn’t know what’s going to happen,” Mr. Roberts told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“That manual that we put out will be the first chapter in the al Qaeda manual on what can happen and what can’t happen,” he said.
Mr. Roberts was one of nine senators who voted against a rider to the defense spending bill last month that prohibits “inhumane treatment” of detainees to obtain intelligence information in the war against terror.
“That doesn’t mean I’m for torture,” Mr. Roberts said.
The White House is threatening to veto the bill unless the rider is removed.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president “does not condone torture, nor would he ever authorize the use” of it.
Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said his amendment would prevent abuses that occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and threatened to attach the measure to every bill moving through the Senate until it is passed.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. McCain defended his ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of anyone in U.S. custody.”
Vice President Dick Cheney wants to exempt prisoners being held by the CIA.
“I don’t have to tell you or anybody who’s watching, our image in the world is suffering very badly, and one of the reasons for it is the perception that we abuse people that we take captive,” Mr. McCain said.
Singling out Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the architect of the September 11 attacks, host Chris Wallace asked, “If you could save American lives, would you want him to know all the things that the U.S. wouldn’t do to him as a prisoner, to, in effect, eliminate the fear factor?”
Mr. McCain said that a detainee would not know the rules and that torture does not produce accurate information.
“Somehow, the Israelis and people who are very good at this business will tell you that psychological tactics is what gains information,” Mr. McCain said, adding that “it’s not about them. It’s about us and what kind of country we are.”
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, reiterated the administration’s stance against torture but said, “They’re going to do everything in their power to make sure that our citizens in the United States of America are protected.
“Since 9/11, we haven’t had another major terrorist instance. Part of the reason is because they are interrogating people like Sheik Mohammed,” Mr. Hatch said on CBS.
Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska sided with Mr. McCain against the White House, telling ABC that the Bush administration’s stance is “a terrible mistake.”