Senate Embraces Anti-Torture Amendment

     (CN) – Turning a corner in post-Sept. 11, 2001, history, the U.S. Senate adopted legislation Tuesday that makes the Army Field Manual the final authority on acceptable interrogation techniques.
     One of the authors of the bipartisan legislation, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., noted in a speech before the 78-21 vote that the bill codifies directives President Barack Obama issued by executive order at the beginning of his first term.
     “Interrogation techniques that would together constitute torture do not work,” Feinstein told the Senate. “They corrode our moral standing and ultimately they undermine any counter-terrorism policies they are intended to support.”
     Spearheaded together with Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., the amendment also encompasses Obama’s decree that all U.S. detainees have access to the Red Cross.
     Both vocal critics of what the CIA called an “enhanced interrogation program,” Feinstein led the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence probe that denounced the agency’s program in a 6,963-page report, and McCain survived torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
     If the legislation had not passed, the next commander-in-chief could have erased Obama’s interrogation reforms with the stroke of a pen.
     Feinstein referred to this danger in her Senate speech.
     “Current law already bans torture, as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” she said. “However, this amendment is still necessary because interrogation techniques were able to be used, which were based on a deeply flawed legal theory, and those techniques, it was said, did not constitute ‘torture’ or ‘cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.'”
     “These legal opinions could be written again,” Feinstein added.
     The McCain-Feinstein Amendment requires an update to the Army Field Manual to make sure it “complies with the legal obligation of the United States and reflects current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use or threat of force.”
     While the Feinstein-McCain amendment enjoyed wide support in the human-rights community, some critics noted that the Army Field Manual does not shut the door on coercive interrogation.
     In particular, its controversial “Appendix M” authorizes extreme isolation, sleep manipulation and other so-called “separation” techniques, according to a report by Human Rights First.
     That group nevertheless hailed the vote in a statement.
     “The passage of this amendment is a landmark step toward rebuilding our nation’s bipartisan consensus against torture,” Human Rights First president Elisa Massimino said in a statement. “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.”

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