Retired Military Leaders Decry Torture Provisions in Defense Authorization Act
Washington, DC – Twenty-six of the nation’s most respected retired military leaders today urged U.S. Senators to carefully consider amendments to the defense authorization bill that would have serious effects on U.S. counterterrorism policy. In separate letters issued today, the retired military leaders urged action on two amendments to the defense authorization bill currently under consideration. In one letter, they called for senators to vote against an amendment introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) that could revive torture or other abusive interrogation tactics by superseding the Obama anti-torture executive order and authorizing interrogation tactics beyond those authorized by the Army Field Manual. The group has decried the use of torture and so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” as undermining national security and U.S. moral standing, as well as a violation of both U.S. and international law. The retired military leaders cautioned that “Amendment 1068 to the defense bill would repeal the Executive Order banning torture, undermine a key aspect of the Detainee Treatment Act by permitting some service members to engage in interrogation techniques outside the Army Field Manual, and would send interrogation tactics by other agencies underground. Amendment 1068 sets the stage for a return to Abu Ghraib.” In a second letter, the group urged senators to vote for an amendment proposed by Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) that would strip controversial detention provisions from the authorization bill. The controversial provisions are in three sections of the defense authorization bill. One section would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge individuals – including American citizens apprehended on U.S. soil – who are suspected of involvement with terrorism. A second section would force law enforcement officials to transfer a large category of terrorism suspects into military custody, against the advice of counterterrorism professionals. A third section would further institute restrictions on the transfer of cleared Guantanamo detainees. In urging support for the Udall amendment, the group asserted that “there should be no disagreement that legislation which both reduces the options available to our Commander-in-Chief to incapacitate terrorists and violates the rule of law would seriously undermine the safety of the American people.” “We appreciate that our leaders are constantly striving to make America more secure, but in doing so, we must be careful not to overreact and overreach, resulting in policies that will do more harm than good,” the group added. “At the very least, the current detention provisions merit public debate and should not be agreed to behind closed doors and tucked into legislation as important as our national defense bill.” The letters’ signatories are part of a larger group of retired generals and admirals who speak out against torture and work to ensure that U.S. policy reflects a single standard of prisoner treatment consistent with the Geneva Conventions. The group worked closely with Senator McCain in 2005 to pass the Detainee Treatment Act which banned torture and limited lawful interrogation to techniques listed in the Army Field Manual. In 2008, they shared their insights with eight Presidential candidates from both parties that torture does immense harm to the reputation of the United States and undermines efforts to combat terrorism.