A group of Republican and Democratic senators introduced on Tuesday an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would ban the government from using torture techniques during interrogations.
The group, which includes Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, drafted the amendment in order to prohibit the government from using interrogation techniques that are not specified in the Army Field Manual. Some techniques that would be prohibited under the amendment include sleep deprivation and waterboarding. Human rights groups have long been opposed to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which were frequently used during the Bush administration by the CIA.
“The U.S. must take steps to guard against a return to torture as an official national security policy in all but name,” Steven Hawkins, the Amnesty International USA director, said in a statement.
The measure would “extend the restrictions throughout the government — not just the Pentagon,” according to The Hill. It would also require the Army Field Manual to be updated every three years so that it “complies with the legal obligations 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.”
The bipartisan proposal was praised by a number of prominent human rights organizations, who urged Congress to pass it and put an end to torture on a government-wide basis.
“This is how a strong democracy deals with its mistakes — we examine what we did, and take the necessary steps to make it right,” Elisa Massimo, the head of Human Rights First, said. “The Senate should work quickly to pass this amendment.”
Others felt that while the proposal was a step in the right direction, it didn’t do enough to ensure that torture techniques were prohibited from all government agencies.
“Today’s proposal is a needed reform, but one that does not go nearly far enough,” Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International’s Security and Human Rights Program, said, adding that the measure doesn’t prohibit the CIA from operating detention sites outside of the U.S.
“This effectively leaves the door open to future CIA secret detention operations should a future US administration withdraw the president’s order, potentially an imminent risk given next year’s election,” Shah said.
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