U.S. Senate approves measure to ban torture during interrogation

17 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Senate Votes to Turn Presidential Ban on Torture Into Law.

The Senate commendably passed an amendment outlawing torture by a wide margin on Monday, but given that torture is already against the law – both through existing US statute and by international treaty – what does that really mean?

More than 20 Republican senators rejected a ban on the use of cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners on Tuesday, voting against an ultimately successful measure to permanently prevent a repeat of the CIA’s once secret and now widely-discredited torture program.The US Senate has voted to ban torture during interrogations — a measure aimed at ending the brutal techniques used against terrorism suspects following the 9/11 attacks of 2001. The bill, a response by lawmakers to last year’s devastating CIA torture report that exposed the agency’s rampant illegal conduct and subsequent cover-up in the years after 9/11, would force all US agencies – including the CIA, finally – to comply with the Pentagon’s rulebook on interrogations.

The bipartisan amendment reaffirms President Barack Obama’s prohibition of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation, which were developed by the CIA under the administration of his predecessor, George W Bush. In a vote of 78 to 21, senators approved an amendment to a defense authorization bill that would restrict all government entities, not just the military, to using only the interrogation techniques described in the Army Field Manual. “I believe past interrogation policies compromised our values, stained our national honor and did little practical good,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who was a sponsor of the measure. “This amendment provides greater assurances that never again will the United States follow that dark path of sacrificing our values for our short-term security needs.” The provision, which was supported by all Senate Democrats and 32 Republicans, would also codify an executive order by Mr. It would also forbid any of the Pentagon’s interrogation rules from being secret and give the Red Cross access to all detainees held by the US, no matter where. John McCain of Arizona, said it was important because the presidential executive order banning torture could one day be lifted by a future president. “I ask my colleagues to support this amendment, and by doing so we can recommit ourselves to the fundamental precept that the U.S. does not torture — without exception and without equivocation — and ensure that the mistakes of our past are never again repeated in the future,” she said. Nothing should have allowed the Bush administration to get away with secretly interpreting laws out of existence or given the CIA authority to act with impunity.

Feinstein led the Senate investigation into the CIA’s secret torture program, the blistering conclusions of which were made public six months ago, in a report revealing how the agency lied about gruesome interrogation techniques deemed to have been brutal and ineffective. The only reason a host of current and former CIA officials aren’t already in jail is because of cowardice on the Obama administration, which refused to prosecute Bush administration officials who authorized the torture program, those who destroyed evidence of it after the fact or even those who went beyond the brutal torture techniques that the administration shamefully did authorize. And Bush-era law-breakers were even given the courtesy of having their names redacted from the report, sparing them of public shaming or criticism, despite clear public interest to the contrary.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any spending bill that locks in the automatic caps that Congress imposed a few years ago to address government deficits. During a swing through New Hampshire on Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush was asked about the “enhanced interrogation methods” installed under his brother after 9/11. “I think it was appropriate at the time,” said Bush, in response to a question from Fox News’s Sean Hannity as part of a pre-taped interview. “I don’t think we need it [now].” Florida senator Marco Rubio, regarded as Bush’s main rival in the Republican presidential contest, missed the vote but said he would have opposed the torture ban. “I would have voted no on this amendment. It’s like debating the legality of child slavery while opening your opening argument with: “well, it is good for the economy.” But that’s now where we stand.

I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use, and denying future commanders in chief and intelligence officials important tools for protecting the American people and the U.S. homeland,” Rubio said in a statement provided by his office to the Guardian. While torture victims are without recourse – for over a decade, Guantanamo prisoners have been barred from testifying about what the CIA did to them – torture architects are television pundits, appearing on the big networks’ Sunday shows to defend one national security excess or another. Other Republican senators running for candidate were split on the amendment: South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, a chief defense hawk, voted against it, while Kentucky senator Rand Paul and Texas senator Ted Cruz voted for it. The idea that Democrats would threaten to filibuster the defense appropriations bill, “which is the bill that actually pays the salaries of our troops is just unconscionable,” said Sen.

Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s security and human rights program, stressed the significance of the vote passing in a Republican-controlled Congress. Included were what it called the agency’s brutal treatment of detainees, a lack of oversight over its secret prisons worldwide, and routine misleading of the White House and Congress about what it had collected through interrogations. Democrats say they want Republicans to sit down with them and discuss ways to unlock spending caps for both defense and non-defense spending, especially in light of Obama’s veto threat. And look where that attitude has left us: John Oliver, who did an excellent segment on the torture debate on Sunday, asked 14 presidential candidates if they supported the new ban, and only four responded with an affirmative.

In other business, the Senate voted down an amendment for the U.S. to bypass Baghdad and send arms directly to Iraqi Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State militants. I guess it’s not exactly a surprise that this year’s lot of Republicans is more than willing to appeal to Jack Bauer fans over proven facts, given Mitt Romney openly advocated for rolling back Obama’s executive order “banning” torture in 2012.

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