02.13.08

Passage Of The Intelligence Authorization Act Conference Report, Including A Provision Limiting The CIA To Interrogation Techniques Authorized In The Army Field Manual

The Senate Thursday voted to approve the Intelligence Authorization Act Conference Report, including a provision to limit the CIA to interrogation techniques authorized in the Army Field Manual.

 

This Report contains a provision that reinforces the prohibition against our Government engaging in torture.  It expressly prohibits interrogation techniques that are not authorized by the United States Army Field Manual.  By passing this bill, we will not only respond to this administration’s ambiguity about torture by reiterating that it is off the table, we will be sending a message to the world that the United States is a country that does not tolerate torture.  Whether waterboarding is torture and illegal does not depend on the circumstances.  

When it comes to our core values – the things that make our country great and that define America’s place in the world – it does not depend on the circumstances.  America, the great and good Nation that has been a beacon to the world on human rights, does not torture and should stand against torture.  

Let me be clear.  This provision should not be necessary.  Waterboarding, and other forms of torture, are already clearly illegal.  Waterboarding has been recognized as torture for the last 500 years.  President Teddy Roosevelt prosecuted American soldiers for waterboarding more than 100 years ago.  We prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding Americans during World War II.  

I support this provision, despite the fact that there is no question that waterboarding is already illegal, because this administration has chosen to ignore the law.  They have admitted they have engaged in waterboarding, otherwise known as water torture, and they refuse to say they will not do it again.  The positions they have taken publicly on this subject are, I believe, so destructive to the core values of this Nation and our standing in the world, that this Congress should say, again – very clearly – that our Government is not permitted to engage in these shameful practices. 

Tragically, this administration has so twisted America’s role, laws and values that our own State Department and high-ranking officials in our Department of Justice cannot say that waterboarding of an American is illegal.  If an enemy decided to waterboard an American soldier, they can now quote statements from high officials in our own Government to support their argument that the technique breaks no laws.  That is how low we have sunk.

Our top military lawyers and our generals and admirals understand this issue.  They have said consistently that waterboarding is torture and is illegal.  They have told us again and again at hearings and in letters that intelligence gathered through cruel techniques like waterboarding is not reliable, and that our use and endorsement of these techniques puts our brave men and women serving in the armed forces at risk.  That is why they have so explicitly prohibited such techniques in their own Army Field Manual, and it is an example that the rest of the Government should follow.

So, despite the fact that the law is already clear, I urge the Senate to pass this provision, and I urge the President to promptly sign it into law, making the policy of our Nation clear.  Our values cannot permit this to be an open question.  We must put an end to the damage that this administration’s positions have caused to our standing and the risks that they have taken with the safety of American citizens and soldiers around the world.   

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