Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, In Support of the McCain-Feinstein Anti-Torture Amendment No. 1889

Congress has some unfinished business before it.  When the President took office, he issued an executive order banning torture.  It is regrettable that such a step was even necessary for a country that has been a signatory to the Convention Against Torture since 1988, more than 25 years ago.  But it was the right thing for the President to do and consistent with our values as Americans.  In particular, the President ordered that all U.S. government personnel and contractors must comply with the interrogation standards in the Army Field Manual, and that the International Committee of the Red Cross should have notice of and access to detainees held by the United States government. 

Now it is time for Congress to adopt these same requirements – to enshrine them in law and ensure that America never again employs torture, no matter what the threat. 

Senators McCain and Feinstein have offered an amendment that mirrors these requirements of the executive order.  It would require all government personnel and contractors, across all agencies and departments, to abide by the rules and regulations contained in the Army Field Manual.  It also would ensure that the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, is provided access to all individuals detained by the United States.

These requirements have already been in place for six years, and this amendment is consistent with current practice.  The Army Field Manual provides clear guidelines on acceptable and effective interrogation practices.  It reinforces explicit prohibitions in existing law against torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment.  It is relied upon by our military personnel when they conduct high-risk interrogations on the battlefield.  There is no reason why these rules should not apply to all government personnel and contractors, in all places, and at all times.

This is a critically important amendment.  We know from the historic report of the Senate Intelligence Committee that the CIA engaged in horrific acts of torture during the Bush administration.  We must be unequivocal to the world and to ourselves that torture is wrong and that it is never permitted. 

An Executive Order is not enough.  Congress must act.  We must codify these safeguards into law.  When it comes to our core values – the things that make our country great and that define America’s place in the world – they do not change depending on the circumstances.  The Convention Against Torture does not make exceptions. We must be clear that there are no instances when torture is acceptable. 

I urge Senators to support the anti-torture amendment, and I commend Senators McCain and Feinstein for their enduring leadership on this issue. We must ensure that America never allows this to happen again. 


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