Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
With the 9/11 anniversary last week, there was some news analysis on the current status of "counter-terrorism" policy, and on where the presidential candidates stood. There seemed to be this notion that actually they're pretty similar on this stuff -- including on the matter of torture. Here are the quotes specifically on torture:
"Both McCain and Obama have called for ... more humane interrogation procedures for suspects."
"They pledge to stop the torture of terrorism suspects."
This is, of course, true to the word, but not true in fact. In February of this year, the Senate held a vote on barring all U.S. agencies (incl the CIA) from using interrogation techniques not approved by the Army Field Manual. Obama voted for it, and McCain voted against it (roll call).
At the time, McCain argued that this wasn't a pro-torture vote, but in reality it left the door rather wide open. (see Marty Lederman)
The other thing to go back to is the Detainee Treatment Act (back in Dec 2005). This was the big thing that McCain engineered, where he 'outlawed' torture, and made the president sign it. But the loopholes (and Bush's signing statement) made it relatively worthless, and in fact there's a healthy argument that it was actually institutionalizing torture as legitimate policy, as it removed the means for possibly enforcing the anti-torture rules (see Alfred McCoy, "Invisible in Plain Sight: CIA Torture Techniques Go Mainstream").
In the end, almost all of the Senators voted for the 'compromise' bill (incl McCain and Obama). But the important history of it is that McCain, along with fellow Republicans and Carl Levin, are the ones who caved into what Bush wanted -- effectively gutting the law.
Let's not lose that history.