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McCain and Powell pushing the true GOP agenda over CIA Jails


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McCain 'will risk presidency' over CIA jails


By Demetri Sevastopulo, Caroline Daniel and Holly Yeager in Washington

Updated: 6:42 p.m. ET Sept. 14, 2006


John McCain, the perceived Republican frontrunner for the 2008 presidential election, has dramatically raised the stakes in a fight with the White House over secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons by saying he is unwilling to back down on the issue even if it ruins his chance of becoming president.


The Arizona senator, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, strongly opposes Bush administration legislation that he believes would redefine US obligations under the Geneva conventions. The White House on Thursday attempted to downplay the escalating dispute, which mirrors a similar battle Mr McCain last year won against the administration.

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"This is not a showdown at the Ok Corral," said Tony Snow, White House press secretary.


But two people briefed on conversations Mr McCain had with his staff said the senator told aides he was willing to risk the presidency, because of possible loss of support from Republican lawmakers and voters.


"At this point, Senator McCain has not made a determination whether he will run for president," said Eileen McMenamin, his spokeswoman. "His decision to take a stand on this issue is not based on a political calculation. He believes this is the right thing to do to protect American servicemen and women, and our values."


Mr McCain has received backing in his fight from Colin Powell, secretary of state during the first four years of the Bush administration.


"The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article Three [of the Geneva conventions] would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk," Mr Powell wrote in a letter to Mr McCain that was released yesterday.


President George W. Bush visited Capitol Hill yesterday in an attempt to rally Republicans behind his proposed bill, which would approve new military commissions at Guant?namo Bay in addition to redefining what violations of the Geneva conventions are prosecutable under US law.


Mr Bush later said the legislation was necessary to allow the US to continue to interrogate detainees in secret CIA prisons. Along with Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator on the armed services committee, and John Warner, the Republican committee chairman, Mr McCain has proposed separate legislation that the White House says would effectively shut down the prisons.


"I will resist any bill that does not enable this [CIA] programme to go forward with legal clarity," Mr Bush said.


In a move widely perceived as an attempt to boost support for Republicans ahead of the crucial November congressional elections, Mr Bush last week announced that Khaled Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the September 11 attacks, and 13 other high-value al-Qaeda detainees had been transferred from secret CIA prisons ? the existence of which the administration had refused to acknowledge ? to Guant?namo Bay for prosecution.


Democrats, hoping to avoid being painted as weak on national security, have stood on the sidelines so far. But the political cover provided by Republican leaders in the field such as Mr McCain and Mr Powell would likely embolden them to join in opposing the White House proposal.


Mr Snow warned yesterday that Michael Hayden, CIA director, had concluded that under the McCain legislation, "the CIA programme would have to be shut down".


The White House released a letter from senior uniformed military lawyers, which said they did not express opposition to certain parts of the administration's legislation, in a move that was described by human rights groups as a U-turn from their recent testimony on Capitol Hill.


John Hutson, a former top Navy military lawyer who testified at a Congressional hearing recently alongside the current judge advocate-generals, said it was sad they had "adopted the administration's religion".

Copyright The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved.

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I think Lincoln Chafee's backing McCain & Powell too. So is John Warner, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee.


Interesting to see how this one shakes out in the GOP. You know McCain isn't backing down on this subject. And John Warner isn't exactly small potatoes.





It's hard to say if this is something they are hoping will bring them back into the limelight, or they legitimately care about the issue.


As far as McCain, you can be sure it's the latter.

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McCain + Powell ticket would be great and would win the presidency in a heartbeat (pipe dream I know but it would).


As for the issue I am glad to see them standing up for it. It is the right thing to do.


I don't see a reason for Powell or McCain to do this for political gain. Powell is essentially retired from politics right now (after four years of working for GWB, I can understand), and McCain has always been strongly opposed to any legislation that would green-light torture, because of his Vietnam experiences.

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