In a strong pushback against claims made by former Vice President Dick Cheney, Sen. John McCain insisted on Sunday that the use of torture on terrorism suspects violated international law, didn't work, and actually helped al Qaeda recruit additional members.
"I think the interrogations were in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the convention against torture that we ratified under President Reagan," said the Arizona Republican. "I think these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaeda recruit. I got that from an al Qaeda operative in a prison camp in Iraq... I think that the ability of us to work with our allies was harmed. And I believe that information, according go the FBI and others, could have been gained through other members."
The senator, appearing on CBS' Face the Nation, offered his assessment just hours after Cheney defended the use of torture during an interview with Fox News Sunday. Host Bob Schieffer pushed McCain to explain how it was that an al Qaeda member had told him that the use of torture helped them recruit.
Relaying a conversation that he and Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) had with a jailed "high-ranking member of al Qaeda," McCain replied that pictures of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib had allowed the terrorist organization "to recruit thousands of young men."
And yet, despite acknowledging that the use of torture was counter-productive and in violation of international law -- laws that have been ratified by the United States -- McCain still insisted that the Obama Justice Department was wrong to launch an investigation into the matter.
"I believe the president was right when he said we ought to go forward and not back," he said. "I worry about the morale and effectiveness of the CIA. I worry about this thing getting out of control and us harming our ability to carry out the struggle we are in with radical Islamic extremism."
"For us now to go back," McCain added. "I think would be a serious mistake."
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