Jun 16 2015
Washington—Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Tuesday spoke on the Senate floor about the McCain-Feinstein anti-torture amendment to the defense authorization bill.
The amendment, adopted by a vote of 78-21, would do the following:
- Codify the president’s January 2009 Executive Order prohibiting the use of coercive interrogation techniques.
- Require access for the International Committee of the Red Cross to detainees in U.S. government custody, which is current U.S. policy.
Following are Senator Feinstein’s remarks:
“I join Senator McCain and Ranking Member Reed—as well as Senators Collins and the other original cosponsors, Senators Leahy, Paul, King, Flake, Heinrich, Whitehouse, Mikulski, Wyden, Murphy, Hirono, Warner, Baldwin, Brown and Markey—in offering an amendment that will help ensure the United States never again carries out coercive and abusive interrogation techniques or indefinite secret detentions.
I’m very pleased that the Senate will consider this amendment, and I urge an aye vote.
The amendment we are offering today is really very simple. It applies the authorizations and restrictions for interrogations in the Army Field Manual to the entire United States government.
It extends what Congress did in 2005, by a vote of 90-9, with the Detainee Treatment Act—which I believe Senator McCain authored—which banned the Department of Defense from using techniques not authorized by the Army Field Manual, and also banned the government from using cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.
The amendment also requires prompt access by the International Committee of the Red Cross to any detainee held by the United States government.
Both of these provisions are consistent with United States policy for the past several years, but this amendment would codify these requirements into law.
President Obama banned the use of coercive and abusive interrogation techniques by Executive Order in his first few days in office, actually on January 22, 2009.
That Executive Order formally prohibits—as a matter of policy—the use of interrogation techniques not specifically authorized by the Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations.
This amendment places that restriction in law. It is long overdue.
The amendment also codifies another section of President Obama's January 2009 Executive Order, requiring access by the International Committee of the Red Cross to all U.S. detainees in U.S. government custody—access which has been historically granted by the United States and other law-abiding nations and is needed to fulfill our obligations under international law, such as the Geneva Conventions.
It is also important to understand that the policies in the 2009 Executive Order are only guaranteed for as long as a future president agrees to leave them in place. This amendment would codify these two provisions into law.
Current law already bans torture, as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
However, this amendment is still necessary because interrogation techniques were able to be used, which were based on a deeply flawed legal theory, and those techniques, it was said, did not constitute “torture” or “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.”
These legal opinions could be written again.
In 2009, President Obama’s Executive Order settled the issue as formal policy, and this amendment will codify a prohibition on a program that was already defunct at the end of the Bush administration.
CIA Director John Brennan has clearly stated that he agrees with the ban on interrogation techniques that are not in the Army Field Manual. Director Brennan wrote the following to the Intelligence Committee in 2013 about the president’s 2009 Executive Order:
And I quote: “I want to reaffirm what I said during my confirmation hearing: I agree with the president’s decision, and, while I am the Director of the CIA, this program will not under any circumstances be reinitiated. I personally remain firm in my belief that enhanced interrogation techniques are not an appropriate method to obtain intelligence and that their use impairs our ability to continue to play a leadership role in the world.” End quote.
Furthermore, it’s important to point out that the Senate and the House both required the use of the Army Field Manual across the government in the fiscal year 2008 intelligence authorization bill. Unfortunately, President Bush vetoed that legislation.
Mr. President, whatever one may think about the CIA's former detention and interrogation program, we should all agree that there can be no turning back to the era of torture.
Interrogation techniques that would together constitute torture do not work. They corrode our moral standing and ultimately they undermine any counterterrorism policies they are intended to support.
So before I close, I would like to ask unanimous consent to place in the record a series of letters and statements in support of this amendment.
I ask my colleagues to support this amendment, and by doing so, we can recommit ourselves to the fundamental precept that the United States does not torture—without exception and without equivocation—and ensure that the mistakes of our past are never again repeated in the future.”