Nine Explain Interrogation Votes
Reacting to reports of abuse of detainees in Iraq and elsewhere, the Senate voted 90 to 9 Wednesday night for an amendment by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would ban the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in the custody of the U.S. military. The provision, inserted in a military spending bill, also would restrict interrogation techniques to those authorized in the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.
The House version contains no such language, so the fate of the amendment will be determined in a House-Senate conference. The Federal Page checked in yesterday with the nine Republicans who voted against to find out why they opposed the McCain amendment. Here is what they told us:
Sen. Wayne Allard (Colo.)
"I believe acts of torture are despicable and deplorable. . . . Requiring the codification of the Army field manual, however, does not right the wrong committed by those individuals who were clearly acting outside of the Army's existing regulations and laws of our country. In fact, all it does is tie the hands of the Department of Defense at a time when maximum flexibility within the boundaries of the U.S. law is needed."
Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.)
"The last thing we want to do is put undue burdens on military and intelligence officials who are on the ground trying to obtain critical information on the war on terror. There are already guidelines in place, including administrative processes, to investigate misconduct and take corrective and punitive action."
Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.)
John Hart, a spokesman for Coburn, said: "He finds the practices that have been publicized aberrant like everyone else does and is deeply opposed to using torture as an interrogation technique. He was concerned that the amendment, however, would put at risk some of our undercover officers by making them subject to two sets of laws governing their conduct."
Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.)
"I listened to the debate, and I support the efforts of the chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee to resolve this issue in conference with the House. We agree that prisoners should not be mistreated, but we disagree that the military combat manual should be the standard for dealing with all prisoners whether they are terrorists or not."
Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.)
"Supporters claim that this amendment was necessary to send a message that the abuse at Abu Ghraib is inconsistent with our laws and values. But those guilty of abuses already knew their conduct violated our laws and our values. . . . As such, they would not have been deterred even if this amendment were in effect at the time. Finally, the amendment gives the false impression that torture and abuse of detainees was the official policy of the United States government. That is also false. The policy was, and continues to be, one that requires humane treatment of all detainees."
Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.)
"From my first statement in the Senate Armed Services Committee in May of last year, I have made it clear that we are spending far too much of our time and effort on the prisoner abuse issue and not enough time on the quality of our interrogations. . . . The military justice system was well into its investigations before the public was even aware of the issue. It is my feeling that the more we air this issue publicly, the more we are emboldening the terrorists. The more we talk about our methods of interrogation we must remember that the enemy is listening."
Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.)
"Am I against torture? Of course I am. I know as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that the information we get from interrogating terrorists is some of the most valuable information we get. It saves lives, period. We have learned that one of the most effective tools we have in getting this information is the terrorists' fear of the unknown. Passing a law that effectively telegraphs to the entire terrorist world what they can expect if they are caught is not only counterproductive, but could be downright dangerous."
Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.)
Sessions's office provided a copy of his floor speech, from which this excerpt was taken.
"People who are responsible for misbehavior are being held to account. If I thought our military was not responding well, I would be very concerned. . . . I am dubious, for complex technical reasons, of the amendment that has been offered . . . because I am not sure it makes good legal sense to have a law that is a moving law, it seems to me, that complies with the Army regulations. . . . A statute is supposed to be permanent. As a lawyer, I am troubled by that. I don't think this is a necessary action."
Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska)
Stevens's office provided the following excerpt from his floor statement .
"There is a classified annex to the Army Field Manual that is not addressed in this amendment. There are people who are not in uniform, who may not even be citizens of the United States, who represent us in very strange and dangerous places, whose lives may be put in jeopardy by the process that is spelled out in this amendment. I speak for them. There are changes that have to be made if we are to be faithful to those people who live in the classified world and will be covered by the classified annex. I hope to try and straighten out the amendment in conference."
-- Compiled by Christopher Lee and Sam Coates