Soon after President Obama was sworn into office, he issued an executive order that banned torture across the board. Now, the Senate has followed suit, voting with an overwhelming majority to halt any and all military or government agencies from using unscrupulous torture methods to obtain information from detainees.
The bill harkens back to the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, a law that prohibited the military from using torture methods during interrogations. The new piece of legislation would expand the 2005 law to the rest of the government, banning non-military entities like the CIA from engaging in unethical tactics and mandating that the International Committee of the Red Cross be allowed to see each and every prisoner.
A bipartisan effort was responsible for the new law, which came to the Senate’s consideration in the form of an amendment to the annual defense policy bill. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California sponsored the bill and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona co-sponsored it, both of whom have become outspoken critics against the use of torture by the American government.
“Current law already bans torture, as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Feinstein. She pointed to “deeply flawed legal theory” that George W. Bush’s administration used to allow torture without violating any existing laws. “Those legal opinions could be written again,” argued Feinstein.
McCain also delivered strong words in support of the new legislation. “I believe past interrogation policies compromised our values, stained our national honor, and did little practical good,” he said. “This amendment provides greater assurances that never again will the United States follow that dark path of sacrificing our values for our short-term security needs.”
While the bill passed the Senate with a whopping 78-21 vote, some legislators were less than pleased. “High-value targets possess valuable intelligence, and we should not limit ourselves to the Army Field Manual, which is published online and was never meant to be the exhaustive, exclusive system governing interrogation,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina.