Torture: Your Messages Are Working, Keep It Up

From: "Kathy Guthrie" <kathyguthrie@fcnl.org>


Legislative Action Message

Torture: Your Messages Are Working, Keep It Up – FCNL

This week has brought dramatic developments in the public demand for Congress to outlaw U.S. use of torture. Your letters and phone calls have had a powerful impact, contributing to a wave of shock and disgust over the administration’s torture policy and practice. Your messages are reaching Washington, with profound impact.

The administration is responding with backroom efforts to debilitate the McCain anti-torture amendment to the 2006 defense appropriations bill (HR 2863), to add exceptions to the amendment that would allow the president to authorize torture, or worse, that would exempt the CIA from the legal prohibition against torture. FCNL expects a vote very soon in the House on whether to retain the McCain amendment without modification. Action: Tell your representative that he or she must do everything possible to retain the Senate’s bi-partisan “McCain amendment” as part of the military appropriations bill. Tell them that the amendment must not be modified to allow for exceptions - no exception for “presidential waiver,” no exception for the geographic location of the detainee, and no exception for the CIA. To find a sample letter and information on your elected congressional representatives, visit the FCNL website at


Background: This week, Fifteen Republicans in the House sent a letter to powerful committee heads, calling for adoption of the McCain anti-torture amendment, without modification, as part of the military funding bill. Newspaper editorials all over the country stood behind retaining the amendment. The Washington Post revealed on Nov. 1 that the CIA operates secret detention centers scattered across the globe, without the oversight of court or Congress or the Pentagon. Read the article. The New York Times reported Nov. 1 that the administration is engaged in a fierce debate about U.S. torture policy. Read the article. On less than 24 hours notice, over 50 House staffers and two members of the House attended an anti-torture Hill briefing by a panel that included a retired Army brigadier general, two religious leaders (Jewish and Catholic), a military law expert, and William Howard Taft IV, former Chief Legal Advisor to Colin Powell and former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Defense under President. Reagan.

To recap: President Bush has threatened to veto the 2006 military appropriations bill (H.R. 2863) because the Senate amended its version of the bill to require that: (1) treatment of all Department of Defense (DoD) detainees or detainees held in DoD facilities must follow the Army Field Manual for Intelligence Interrogation; and (2) the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (to which the U.S. is a signatory) governs all U.S. detainees. Read the text of the amendment at


Administration supporters have proposed a number of exemptions from the outright ban on torture by U.S. forces, including: presidential waiver, allowing the president to issue an order that in certain circumstances, the rule against torture would not apply; an exception for some geographic locations, countries or locations outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts; and an exception for classified intelligence gathering, allowing the definition of “classified intelligence” rendered in the field to determine whether torture can be permitted in a given interrogation session. Vice-President Cheney has even proposed an outright exemption for the CIA from the constraints of the torture ban, an astonishing proposal that would give permission for a U.S. agency to practice torture in violation of U.S. statutory law and treaty obligations.

With an overwhelming bi-partisan vote (90-9), the Senate passed the McCain amendment, which would adopt clear interrogation guidance for U.S. personnel in the field, based on the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation and the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Army Field Manual is the sum of professional judgment about which interrogation methods work, and which do not. It states that detainee abuse is counterproductive to the psychological bonds that produce reliable results. The Convention Against Torture was signed by President Reagan and sent to the Senate by President George H.W. Bush. It prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Congress and the administration of President George H.W. Bush clarified those terms for application to U.S. forces by requiring use of the standards prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution. In other words, U.S. forces would be required to follow U.S. Constitutional standard to guide their own conduct.

The Army Field Manual states that, “Experience indicates that the use of prohibited techniques is not necessary to gain the cooperation of interrogation sources. Use of torture and other illegal methods is a poor technique that yields unreliable results.” Twenty-nine senior retired officers, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Shalikashvili issued their support for the McCain amendment, approving the amendment’s clarification of consistent, top-down rules for all U.S. forces to follow. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell also endorsed the amendment, aligning himself with the letter from General Shalikashvili and the “distinguished group of senior offices in support of the amendment.”

The McCain amendment does not prevent intelligence gathering. It prevents abuse and torture. The amendment insists on following the Army Field Manual, which in turn states that the methods that are expressly forbidden “should not be confused with psychological ploys, verbal trickery, or other nonviolent or non-coercive ruses used by the interrogator” to seek reliable information.

Visit the FCNL web site for further background information about the use of torture at


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November 2005

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