McCain: CIA chief's statement 'remarkable'

It’s “remarkable” that CIA Director John Brennan said it’s impossible to know whether the controversial interrogation techniques used during the George W. Bush administration were effective, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWill the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? Republicans have dumped Reagan for Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting MORE said Friday.

"He now, rather than saying they got the information they could identify as leading to results, he used the word 'unknowable,' " McCain (R-Ariz.) said Friday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

"I thought that was pretty remarkable that we would carry out these rather extreme measures ... and the results were 'unknowable,' " he added.


The CIA’s interrogations program is in the spotlight this week, after Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report concluding that tactics used during the George W. Bush administration, including waterboarding, were ineffective. The report also accuses the CIA of misleading the public, Congress and the White House about the use of the techniques.

Brennan defended his agency Thursday at a rare press conference at the agency's headquarters, calling the report "flawed" and incomplete. 

Brennan said information obtained during the interrogations was useful in tracking down Osama bin Laden, though he would not directly attribute the information to the agency's enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs). 

“Detainees who were subjected to EITs at some point during their confinement subsequently provided information that our experts found to be useful and valuable in our counterterrorism efforts,” he said. 

He added, “The cause and effect relationship between the application of those EITs and the ultimate provision of information is unknown and unknowable.”

McCain, a vocal critic of the interrogations who had his arms broken and reset as a prisoner during the Vietnam War, pointed to remarks Thursday by former CIA Director David Petraeus in The Wall Street Journal that "if you want information from a detainee, you become his best friend."

"That is what some of us had been maintaining all along," McCain said.

The veteran Arizona lawmaker was one of the few Republicans this week who supported Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinInfrastructure deal imperiled by differences on financing If you want Julie Su at the DOL, don't point to her resume Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE’s (D-Calif.) decision to release the controversial interrogations report.

“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good,” McCain said on the Senate floor. “Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguished us from our enemies.”

Still, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Friday that he hoped lawmakers and the country would now be able to move on from the interrogation debate.

"We examined legislation that we have, see if we need any more — I'm of the opinion we don't — but we ought to examine that. And now we can put it behind us and move on," he said. 

"I think this can bring closure to it.”