Despite Stated Intent of New Law’s Authors to Ban “Enhanced” Interrogation Techniques, White House Needs Watching on Military Commissions Act, Group Warns

NEW YORK – In advance of President Bush’s signing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Elisa Massimino, Washington Director of Human Rights First said, “Given this administration’s track record of trying to get around even the clearest prohibitions against inhumane treatment, I expect this is a battle we’ll have to keep fighting.” She added: “Congress has promised to be vigilant in enforcing compliance with this law. Given that the law purports to strip the courts of that role, congressional oversight will be critical.”


The Act’s primary sponsors have emphasized the limits the Act places on conduct the President can authorize for U.S. personnel, including the CIA. In floor debate, Senator John McCain said:


The President and his subordinates are . . . bound to comply with Geneva. That is clear to me and to all who have negotiated this legislation in good faith. . . .We expect the CIA to conduct interrogations in a manner that is fully consistent not only with the Detainee Treatment Act and the War Crimes Act, but with all of our obligations under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.


Senator John Warner agreed: “The types of conduct described in [the Kennedy] amendment, in my opinion, are in the category of grave breaches of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. These are clearly prohibited by our bill.”


The Kennedy Amendment specified acts including: “forcing the person to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; applying beatings, electric shocks, burns, or other forms of physical pain to the person; waterboarding the person; using dogs on the person; inducing hypothermia or heat injury in the person; conducting a mock execution of the person; and depriving the person of necessary food, water, or medical care.”


For additional key quotes on the intent of the key Senate negotiators, see


Published on October 16, 2006


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