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McCain Briefed Yesterday on Hostage Rescue Operation

By Juliet Eilperin
ABOARD THE MCCAIN CAMPAIGN PLANE -- While Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) spoke repeatedly over the past 24 hours about how he would work as president to free three American hostages held by leftist guerrillas in Colombia, he did not reveal one key fact: Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and his aides had briefed him Tuesday night about the plan to rescue the Americans, along with 12 other captives.

"I congratulate President Uribe, the military, the nation of Colombia. This is great news," McCain told reporters this afternoon, adding that Colombian officials would continue working to free "all the other innocent people who are being held hostage" by the FARC.

The presumptive GOP nominee only revealed his knowledge of the Colombian military's mission after the hostages -- including Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans, Thomas Howes, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell -- were freed today. The leftist guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, captured Betancourt six years ago when she was campaigning for president, and took the three Americans, who were serving as military contractors, a year later.

"These are very high-risk operations," McCain said, adding that the plan was unconnected to his visit yesterday to Colombia. "I would remind you that these things require incredibly long planning and coordination, etc., there's no way possible that it could have had anything to do with our visit that I could imagine.... It's a very happy moment."

Uribe and his defense minister told McCain and the two other senators traveling with him, Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), about the rescue mission in detail last night before they all had dinner together. Just as U.S. authorities have been pressing for the Americans' release, French authorities have been lobbying for years for the release of Betancourt, who is also a French citizen. Just this year Betancourt's mother publicly released a letter from her daughter, in which she wrote of becoming increasingly despondent in captivity.

"It was really a brilliant plan," Lieberman said. "I think the timing was fortuitous. They just felt they had it ready to implement."

The fact that Colombian officials chose to disclose the plan in advance to McCain, Lieberman said, testified to his colleague's international standing. "I think it was a sign of confidence of
President Uribe and the defense minister in Senator McCain, and maybe in the two of us, that they were prepared to share this information last night, which was highly classified."

McCain spoke by phone with Uribe shortly before 4 p.m. local time, but only revealed a few details because he said the operation was "classified."

A McCain aide, who asked not to be identified, said that while it was somewhat unusual for the Colombian officials to notify McCain about the raid in advance, "It's a sign of the closeness of their relationship."

"I don't think that there is an established protocol" for such briefings, the aide said. "Protocol is not a word I would associate with this."

McCain learned that the effort had succeeded more than an hour after his plane took off from Cartagena. Local reporters questioned him about what he intended to do about freeing the three U.S. captives: in a press conference Wednesday morning, he said he would support the Colombian government in its rescue efforts, adding that FARC's detention of the men was "in violation of all standards" of human rights.

"I would leave the modalities to the government of Colombia. It's a sovereign nation," McCain said. "But I intend to do everything I can do to support an increase in their capabilities."

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 2, 2008; 7:16 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , John McCain  
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A Colombian official confirmed that the Bush administration was briefed last week on the impending operation....

Posted by: Anonymous | July 4, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

They need to put that SOB in a helicopter and push him out at a few thousand feet. I don't think he has a chance of getting elected but why take any chances.

John Mccain should have been on one of the rescue helicopters. Its a set up. he goes to afghanistan late october and will be there when osama bin forgotten is caught. Ofcourse just a coincidence

Posted by: what a scam | July 3, 2008 1:32 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | July 3, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

John Mccain should have been on one of the rescue helicopters. Its a set up. he goes to afghanistan late october and will be there when osama bin forgotten is caught. Ofcourse just a coincidence

Posted by: what a scam | July 3, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

It's a good thing he wasn't around during the planning of D-day in ww II. He would have given the whole thing away. The John Mccain who was a first class screw up who everybody who served with him said he could not be trusted or depended on all the way back to his academy days. A first class Fu@k up and nothing has changed.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 3, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

He knew the timing on this, as they were working with the US on this operation, and his partner in Crime, Karl Rove, would make sure McCain takes political advantage of this.

This bad apple hasn't fallen far from the Bush.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 3, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

What a slimeball McCain is for using this hostage situation as a political stunt!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 3, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Bring out the aircraft carrier with the Mission Accomplished banner!

Posted by: Green Rich | July 3, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

It does look like an obvious political ploy. McCain, possibly through his position on the Armed Services Committee, gets wind of the planned Colombian operation. He hastily plans a trip to Colombia, scheduled for the exact date of the raid, and announces it on Thursday last week, June 26. His ambition is to be on hand when the hostages are freed and score some leadership points and possibly a photo op. Colombian newspapers report the planned visit, wondering what his campaign possibly has to do with their country. (See El Tiempo's editorial of June 27.) My guess is the Colombians weren't too happy to have him there, not least because the visit was raising too many questions and might threaten the operation. He probably spent Tuesday night trying to strong-arm Uribe into letting him in on a photo-op. He hung around Colombia as long as he could Wednesday, but Colombian authorities had still not released word of the operation's success, so he finally had to leave. His attempt to horn in on the operation and score some political points therefore failed, and the Colombians managed to keep him and Lieberman from mucking things up and endangering the hostages' lives. Should we call this McCain's Blind Ambition tour?

Posted by: cadejo4 | July 3, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: CHRIS | July 3, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

The only October surprise that would please me would be a massive stroke.

and they say that those who believe an "October Surprise" in McCain's favor are paranoid conspiracy theorists. This is just the first very public clue that there will be something that ensures Bush stays in office one way or another.

Posted by: map529 | July 3, 2008 11:27 AM

Posted by: Anonymous | July 3, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

and they say that those who believe an "October Surprise" in McCain's favor are paranoid conspiracy theorists. This is just the first very public clue that there will be something that ensures Bush stays in office one way or another.

Posted by: map529 | July 3, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Pretty parochial to see this only in terms of American politics. One of the reasons we continue to be a self-absorbed selfish nation.

Posted by: R8a | July 3, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

and the point of this story is? we are suppose to think mcbush somehow had a hand in releasing these hostages and because of that he would make a great president?

Posted by: barney fife | July 3, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

C'mon don't think Mr. Blacks connections with columbia have anything to do with Mccains visit and the timing?

In fact, I'm more troubled that pleased that he's there. I truly don't trust the folks running his campaign - there's some real slimeballs (not unlike those in the bush admin) running his show. I've seen enough of that. McCain couldn't beg, borrow or steal my vote.

Posted by: JDB | July 3, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

The american voter could hardly care.

Posted by: nclwtk | July 3, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

He happens to go to Colombia to talk about freeing hostages right before hostages are freed? The American people can be thick, but not this thick. Pretty obvious political ploy...

Posted by: Sarah | July 3, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

The thought of McCain being President sends chills up my spine.. this was obviously staged..... Bush knew of the plan arranged for McBush to go so that he could look Presidential... Bunch of SICKOS

Posted by: Afria | July 3, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Well, thank you President Uribe and everybody involved as you all pat yourselves on the back you have assured such an operation will never work again. Last night on every cable news show they had all the details of how the group was infiltrated and how they had been tricked. I hope they don't have any other similar operations going on at this time as the infiltrators will have their heads cut off as soon as it is determine who they are. There was no need to disclose anything about the operation, not one detail. If anything you do a cover story like it was just dumb luck you got them back. If Mccain was truly involved with any of the planning of the rescue and cared about the hostages still held, he would have insisted that nothing be said about any of how it was done afterwards. Instead he tries to turn it into some kind of political advantage for himself putting the lives of every hostage still held at risk. Good going John Mccain you F'n moron.

Posted by: xxxxxxxx | July 3, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse


Thank you for your professionalism, Ms Eilperin.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 3, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

This is such great news for the three American hostages and the others as well. When I first heard it, I briefly went to a "Hollywood" scenario where the McCain visit was somehow planned by the US and Colombia as cover for the operation, perhaps to distract FARC. But clearly, from the reports of how the rescue happened, there was no such connection.

On the other side of the coin, the raid obviously was not planned to help McCain, as suggested, and I'm sure he would not have accepted such help if offered, given lives were at stake.

Here's how we can tell: If we pretend he somehow knew about it way in advance, we soon realize there was no particular political benefit to this coincidence. He happened to be in town (not in the US listening to and talking to American voters) when something really great happened that wasn't related to him. At most, this distracted from whatever point he thought his own visit was making, which to be honest remans unclear to me. It didn't win him votes.

And now we resume our regularly scheduled campaign following a welcome but unrelated interruption...

Posted by: Fairfax Voter | July 3, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Hey America, I know you can't afford gas, your house is being foreclosed, and your kids are at war, or can't afford college. But JOhn McCain gets "briefed" about hostage rescues from other countries. I tihnk this is supposed to make you feel safe, foriegn countries will tell JOhn McCain when the rescue hostages.

Posted by: Julian | July 3, 2008 2:18 AM | Report abuse

re: Lindner

Chiquita Brands International Inc. is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based producer and distributor of bananas and other produce, under a variety of subsidiary brand names, collectively known as Chiquita. Chiquita is the successor to the United Fruit Company and is the leading distributor of bananas in the United States. The company also owns a German produce distribution company, Atlanta AG, which it acquired in 2003. Chiquita was formerly controlled by Cincinnati billionaire Carl H. Lindner, Jr., his majority ownership of the company ended as a result of Chiquita Brands International exiting a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 19, 2002. In 1969 it was bought by Zapata Corporation an enterprise related with George H. W. Bush. The enterprise changed its name to Chiquita Brands and operates with that name to this day.

Banana Republic? And you wonder why the Bush people sent Jeb to Florida... And you wonder why American foreign policy in Cuba has been subservient to Republican politics in America.... Follow the money....

The things these people have done in Latin America... all for the love of money... greed, really....

History will not be kind to them. The truth will come out, and there will be no whitewash.

Maybe Bush was able to buy Ohio in the last two general elections. Maybe McCain thinks he can work the same stuff - divide and conquer via religion and war and race, and let your powerful friends make sure that the key voting machines don't work and the right papers endorse at the right times.

Sooner or later the truth comes out.

Posted by: JR, Boston | July 3, 2008 2:17 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, kind of like the timing of the hostages from Iran coming back just after Reagan's election.

Do you think Reagan cared that they could have been released in October, if it hadn't been for his overriding Presidential ambition?

It is obvious that the Republicans have deep, deep, dark connections with the drug dealers of Latin America.

The Iran/Contra/Crack scandal didn't begin or end overnight.

Is McCain part of that?

In time, we will find out.

Posted by: JR, Boston | July 3, 2008 1:58 AM | Report abuse

If it's true that Lindner's company was financing terrorist groups he should worry about going on a waterboarding vacation in Cuba. That would be farcing crazy!

Posted by: thebob.bob | July 3, 2008 1:11 AM | Report abuse

Columbia is a sovereign country. They run their own business. No US president can tell the Columbian president what to do. Please don't diminish something good and positive like the freeing of hostages. Please take time on this July 4th to celebrate your independence and freedom and also celebrate the former hostages' freedom!

Posted by: Sonya | July 3, 2008 1:01 AM | Report abuse

Come on, this is so staged! So horrible for the hostages that were kept for six years when we could have walked in anytime and gotten them back. Not until it was expedient for another Republican to be President did they even bother. How can anyone not be utterly cynical about this? I'm so angry!

Posted by: Dianne | July 2, 2008 11:57 PM | Report abuse Like the Iran hostage crisis and Iran contra affair, another example of the GOP paying foreign govts to do their dirty deeds. I bet the FARC let these hostages walk out, because the GOP operatives paid tons of cash to them in the first place. Obama and the democrats could never go so low.

Posted by: playa | July 2, 2008 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Good to know that no hostages are ever forgotten.

Posted by: Glenn | July 2, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Pretty slick. Quite the coincidence.

The White House knew about it for about a week in advance. Pays to have friends in high places, eh?

Whatever happened to politics ending at the water's edge, or whatever he said?

Posted by: Susan | July 2, 2008 9:37 PM | Report abuse

B2o2-I assume you can Prove the accusations you are making?

I seem to recal the Organization of American States is a very Pro-Leftist Group, quite in conflict with the US and Capitalism in general.

Put up, or shut-up.

Spreading Left-Wing Propaganda is easy.

That seems to be what the Dimocrat Party is all about! ;~)

Meanwhile, Bravo and Kudos to My Beloved Colombians! :-)

Posted by: Saint-The | July 2, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Convenient timing. It explains why McCain went to Colombia in the first place, which seemed ridiculous on the surface. McCain has probably been in on the planning of this for a while and fit it into his schedule so he could be around when it went down and look "presidential." It is interesting how the Republicans have been using foreign governments - at least Canada and Colombia - to support their candidate. It doesn't convince me that McCain is the right one for the job.

Posted by: Chuck | July 2, 2008 8:53 PM | Report abuse

More about Carl Lindner, who has overseen funding to both McCain and various Columbian terrorist groups:

Late last week, Lindner co-hosted a $25,000-per-person fundraiser for McCain and the Republican Party in the wealthy Indian Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. The event raised about $2 million; Lindner also serves on McCain's Ohio Victory Team.

While Lindner was CEO of Chiquita, the company began sending money to the AUC through its shipping subsidiary Banadex. A report by the Organization of American States states that Banadex also engaged in arms trafficking, helping to deliver 3,000 Nicaraguan AK-47 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition to the AUC in 2001. According to federal prosecutors, when company officials realized the arrangement was illegal, they switched to making the payments in cash.

Chiquita's funding of violent paramilitaries does not end with the right-wing AUC. The fruit giant "had been making similar payments to the leftist FARC and ELN guerrillas" since 1989, also on Lindner's watch. Those payments ended in 1997 as "control of the company's banana-growing area shifted" to the AUC, according to the Associated Press.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 2, 2008 7:59 PM | Report abuse

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