Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today denounced the Bush Administration’s secret approval of torture methods used by the CIA during interrogations, and renewed her call for all U.S. intelligence agencies to be required to follow the Army Field Manual’s rules on interrogations.

Senator Feinstein’s remarks came on the heels of news reports Wednesday that the Bush Administration, in 2003 and 2004, issued secret memos to the CIA endorsing the agency’s use of waterboarding and other coercive interrogation techniques against al-Qaeda suspects. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, of which Sen. Feinstein is a member, is investigating the CIA’s interrogation program.

Senator Feinstein noted that the Committee has not yet received copies of the memos mentioned in Wednesday’s news reports, but that their existence seems plausible.

“To me, this further demonstrates why a single standard for interrogations across all branches of the government – including the CIA – is necessary,” Senator Feinstein said. “I believe it is very dangerous not to set this standard across the board, and the only document that does this is the revised Army Field Manual. The abuses we’ve seen at Guantanamo, at Abu Ghraib, and in Afghanistan clearly show the spillover results of allowing the CIA to engage in coercive interrogations.

“CIA coercive interrogations violate U.S. law.  This program was carried out by the CIA, and authorized by the senior officials at the CIA, the Department of Justice, and the White House.  According to public accounts, the CIA killed people in its custody.  To date, no one has been held to account for these abuses.  There needs to be accountability for this program as a deterrent to lawless behavior in the future.

“Torture is a black eye against the United States. It violates U.S. and international law, including the Geneva Conventions. Let there be no doubt – waterboarding is, in fact, torture. The CIA was right in 2003 to be concerned about the legality of its interrogation program – but rather than seeking political cover through White House memos, it should have reformed the program. 

“Instead, the CIA engaged contractors to carry out interrogation techniques – a policy to which I am strongly opposed. The CIA program makes the war on terror harder to fight, because it drives a wedge between us and our allies.  It tarnishes America’s reputation in the world, makes the world a more dangerous place for Americans, and puts our troops at greater risk. I intend to pursue all legislative options until all parts of the U.S. Government are required to use the time-tested, effective interrogation techniques that the military and law enforcement use today.”

Senator Feinstein has played a key role in introducing legislation that would require all U.S. intelligence agencies to follow the Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations.

This manual specifically prohibits eight interrogation techniques:

  • Forcing a detainee to be naked, perform sexual acts, pose in sexual manner;
  • Placing hoods or sacks over the head of a detainee, duct tape over the eyes;
  • Beatings, electric shock, burns or other forms of physical pain;
  • Waterboarding;
  • Use of military working dogs;
  • Introducing hypothermia or heat injury;
  • Conducting mock executions; and
  • Depriving detainee of necessary food, water, or medical care.

The Army Field Manual allows 19 interrogation approaches, mainly based on psychological techniques, such as making a detainee believe that cooperation will shorten the length of a war and therefore save his country.

Legislative history:

February 13, 2008:  Congress approved legislation by Senators Feinstein, Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) requiring the CIA to follow the Army Field Manual in interrogations. The legislation, part of the Fiscal 2008 Intelligence Authorization Bill, would have established the uniform standards of the Army Field Manual on interrogation of detainees for all parts of the U.S. government.  It would have specifically prohibited waterboarding and other forms of coercive interrogation techniques.

March 8, 2008: President Bush vetoed the Feinstein-Hagel-Whitehouse legislation.

April 29, 2008: Senator Feinstein introduced an amendment to the Fiscal 2009 Intelligence Authorization Act requiring the CIA and all American intelligence agencies to follow the Army Field Manual on interrogations. The amendment was co-sponsored by Senators Whitehouse, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), Hagel, Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

May 1, 2008: Senator Feinstein’s measure banning torture was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The legislation has not yet moved on the Senate floor.

August 1, 2008 -- Senators Feinstein, Rockefeller, Whitehouse, Hagel, Feingold, and Wyden introduce legislation requiring the CIA to follow the Army Field Manual’s rules when conducting interrogations. The “Restoring America’s Integrity Act” also bans the use of contractor interrogations and requires access to CIA detainees by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The legislation was referred to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

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