The Skinny

U.S. Torture Chambers

Sen. John McCain condemns the U.S. interrogation methods in the wake of 9/11

Many Republicans criticized last week's release of an in-depth investigation into the CIA's treatment of detainees in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

The report contained a lot of grim details that the American public had not been privy to before: The use of rectal feeding of detainees, extreme sleep deprivation, stress positions, the slamming of detainees into walls and, in one case, a threat to rape a detainee's mother in front of him.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said the report's release was "problematic given the growing threats we face," although he added that he did not "condone torture and continue to believe abusive detention and interrogation techniques used in the past were counterproductive."

But Arizona Sen. John McCain said releasing the report was the right thing to do. McCain, who was tortured while in captivity at the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War, said "the American people have a right—indeed, a responsibility—to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values."

McCain added that he had "long believed some of these practices amounted to torture, as a reasonable person would define it, especially, but not only the practice of waterboarding, which is a mock execution and an exquisite form of torture. Its use was shameful and unnecessary; and, contrary to assertions made by some of its defenders and as the Committee's report makes clear, it produced little useful intelligence to help us track down the perpetrators of 9/11 or prevent new attacks and atrocities."

"I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence," McCain said. "I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored."

CRomnibus Ride

Congress passes budget bill loaded with giveaways to stop government shutdown

Congress managed to avoid a holiday shutdown last week with the passage of the $1.1 trillion CRomnibus, a weird cross between a continuing resolution and an omnibus spending bill that had both lots to like and lots to hate.

Among the provisions that attracted attention:

• While most of the government would be funded through September 2015, the Department of Homeland Security is only funded through February so that the new Republican-controlled Senate can team up with the Republican-controlled House to attempt to derail the Obama administration's recent executive action on immigration through budgetary maneuvers.

• Dodd-Frank Act restrictions on financial schemes by big banks that were established in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown were rolled back.

Southern Arizona Congressman Ron Barber voted in favor of the CRomnibus. He said the alternative was another government shutdown and while he had "concerns with several parts of this bill, it is absolutely crucial that we pass this legislation and fund the operation of vital services and programs for Southern Arizona families, service members and our local economy."

But Southern Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva voted against the legislation. He issued a joint statement with Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison, D-Min., that criticized provisions that loosened the regulations that prevented big banks from engaging in risky financial gambits, increased campaign-finance contribution levels and cut education and environmental protection programs.

"Republicans are once again using a potential crisis with the federal budget to hurt working families," Grijalva said. "The Progressive Caucus stands with the American people and opposes the bill."

Medication Relief

AZ law restricting abortion blocked by U.S. Supreme Court

The Arizona Legislature's efforts to make it harder for women to use medication to terminate their pregnancy hit another roadblock this week as the U.S. Supreme Court kept the law on hold pending trial.

The 2012 law created new regulations that required doctors who prescribed the abortion-inducing drug Mifeprex to use protocols that were laid out when the FDA first approved the medication, which limited the use of the drug to the first seven weeks of pregnancy.

Since the drug's approval 14 years ago, doctors have determined that not only is it safe to use up to nine weeks into a pregnancy, but a lower dose of the drug is effective. Reverting to the old protocols would require that patients make an additional trip to the doctor—a serious problem for women who live in rural areas—and take more medication than needed.

In June, the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals put the law on hold, saying that attorneys for Planned Parenthood "have introduced uncontroverted evidence that the Arizona law substantially burdens women's access to abortion services, and Arizona has introduced no evidence that the law advances in any way its interest in women's health."

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that injunction on Monday, Dec. 15.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that the court "did the right thing today, but this dangerous and misguided law should never have passed in the first place."

"Politicians are not medical experts—but politicians have written this law with the ultimate goal of making safe, legal abortion hard or even impossible to access," Richards continued in a prepared statement. "We are pleased that the courts are recognizing that these unconstitutional laws hurt women and block access to safe medical care."

Approximately half the women in Arizona who seek abortions use the medication option rather than a surgical procedure. And until another state law required the same facilities for dispensing the medication as performing a surgical abortion, Planned Parenthood could offer medication abortions in Yuma and Prescott. (Because of those restrictions, abortion services are now only available in Tucson, Maricopa County and Flagstaff.)

"Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel" airs every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on KGUN-9. This week's scheduled guests are former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton and attorney Jeff Rogers, the former chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party.

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