Senate Passes Bipartisan Amendment to Prevent Torture

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised the passage of an historic bipartisan amendment that prevents the future use of torture by any U.S. government agency. The legislation, introduced last week by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as an amendment of the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, would ensure that the use of torture or cruel treatment is never again the official policy of the United States. The amendment was passed overwhelmingly with a vote of 78-21 in the Senate.

“In the days after 9/11, our nation’s leaders allowed misguided policies to disrupt this country’s moral compass,” said General Charles C. Krulak, former Commandant of the Marine Corps and leader of a group of more than 60 retired military leaders who have advocated against the use of torture. “By passing the McCain-Feinstein amendment, the Senate today took an important step toward restoring America’s leadership on the prohibition of torture.”

Frank Anderson, a 26-year CIA veteran and former Chief of the CIA’s Near East and South Asia Division, added, “Today, these senators affirmed that America’s national security is best protected by a single interrogation standard that is sophisticated and smart, not reckless and illegal. Today’s vote takes torture off the table and recognizes the effectiveness of interrogation methods that have kept Americans safe for generations.”

The legislation was supported by dozens of intelligence and interrogation professionals and retired generals and admirals, including former Director of the CIA Gen. David Petreaus, who said, “I strongly support the extension of the provisions of the U.S. Army Field Manual that currently govern the actions of the U.S. military to all U.S. government personnel and contractors.   Our Nation has paid a high price in recent decades for the information gained by the use of techniques beyond those in the field manual – and, in my view, that price far outweighed the value of the information gained through the use of techniques beyond those in the manual.”

The amendment, designed to prevent any future administration from authorizing torture and other cruelty that violates domestic or international law, will:

  • Restrict the intelligence community—and the CIA in particular—to interrogation methods articulated in the Army Field Manual; and
  • Require that the International Committee of the Red Cross be provided notification of and access to detainees held in U.S. custody.

“The passage of this amendment is a landmark step toward rebuilding our nation’s bipartisan consensus against torture,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “This legislation goes a long way toward preventing a return to the dark side. I urge congressional leaders to champion this provision as the defense authorization moves toward final passage.”


Published on June 16, 2015


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