Senate Democrats

Senate Republicans Have Been Outspoken Against Torture – Will Their Votes Match Their Rhetoric?

Several Senate Republicans have been outspoken critics of the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics. But will their votes today on the Intelligence Authorization bill, which includes a provision to ensure all U.S. agencies abide by the Army Field Manual in all interrogations, match their rhetoric?

Senators McCain, Warner and Graham Urged Judge Mukasey to Declare Waterboarding Illegal Under Any Circumstances, Permit its Use By Any Agency. “We also expect that, in that role, you will not permit the use of such a practice by any agency of the United States Government. You have declined to comment specifically on the legality of waterboarding, deeming it a hypothetical scenario about which it would be imprudent to opine. Should you be confirmed, however, you will soon be required to make determinations regarding the legality of interrogation techniques that are anything but hypothetical. Should this technique come before you for review, we urge that you take that opportunity to declare waterboarding illegal. Waterboarding, under any circumstances, represents a clear violation of U.S. law.” [Letter from Senators McCain, Warner and Graham to Judge Mukasey, 10/31/07]

Senators McCain, Warner and Graham Argued Military Commissions Act Prohibited Waterboarding by All U.S. Agencies. “It is also incontestable that waterboarding is outlawed by the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA), and it was the clear intent of Congress to prohibit the practice. As the authors of the statute, we would note that the MCA enumerates grave breaches of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions that constitute offenses under the War Crimes Act. Among these is an explicit prohibition on acts that inflict ‘serious and nontransitory mental harm,’ which the MCA states (but your letter omits) ‘need not be prolonged.’ Staging a mock execution by inducing the misperception of drowning is a clear violation of this standard. Indeed, during the negotiations, we were personally assured by Administration officials that this language, which applies to all agencies of the U.S. Government, prohibited waterboarding.” [Letter from Senators McCain, Warner and Graham to Judge Mukasey, 10/31/07]

Senator McCain Said Generals in Iraq Believe Army Field Manual Techniques Are Effective – Commander-In-Chief Must Never Allow Torture in the United States. In a Republican Presidential debate, Senator McCain said, “And again, I would hope that we would understand, my friends, that life is not ‘24’ and Jack Bauer. Life is interrogation techniques which are humane and yet effective. And I just came back from visiting a prison in Iraq. The Army general there said that techniques under the Army Field Manual are working and working effectively, and he didn’t think they need to do anything else. My friends, this is what America is all about. This is a defining issue and, clearly, we should be able, if we want to be commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, to take a definite and positive position on, and that is, we will never allow torture to take place in the United States of America.” [Republican Presidential Debate, 11/28/07]

Senator McCain Argued Enhanced Interrogation Techniques Were Torture – Techniques in Army Field Manual Would Be Adequate in 999,999 Out of 1 Million Cases. Asked during a Republican Presidential debate how aggressively he would interrogate detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Senator McCain said, “It’s about us as a nation. We have procedures for interrogation in the Army Field Manual. Those, I think, would be adequate in 999,999 of cases, and I think that if we agree to torture people, we will do ourselves great harm in the world.” He was also asked if he regarded the Bush Administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques as torture. Senator McCain responded, “Yes, and the interesting thing about that aspect is that during the debate, when we had the detainee treatment act, there was a sharp division between those who had served in the military and those who hadn’t. Virtually every senior officer, retired or active- duty, starting with Colin Powell, General Vessey and everyone else, agreed with my position that we should not torture people.” [Republican Presidential Debate, 5/15/07]

Senator McCain Said He Would Not Condone Waterboarding, For Which U.S. Prosecuted Japanese After World War II. “‘Waterboarding will give you a confession, but it won’t always get you the truth,’ McCain said Tuesday as he campaigned in South Carolina. ‘I’m not going to condone a practice that we used as the rationale for prosecuting the Japanese for war crimes in World War II.’” [Chicago Tribune, 12/12/07]

Senator McCain Argued Waterboarding Could Not Be Inflicted on Anyone Held in U.S. Custody. “During a debate Nov. 28, McCain clashed with Mitt Romney when the former Massachusetts governor declined to say whether he supports waterboarding. Romney said: ‘I do not believe that, as a presidential candidate, it is wise for us to describe precisely what techniques we will use in interrogating people.’ ‘Well, governor, I’m astonished that you haven’t found out what waterboarding is,’ McCain said sternly. ‘I know what waterboarding is, senator,’ Romney replied. McCain said: ‘How in the world anybody could think that that kind of thing could be inflicted by Americans on people who are held in our custody is absolutely beyond me.’” [Chicago Tribune, 12/12/07]

Senators McCain and Warner Blasted President’s Assertion That He Could Bypass Ban on Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. “John W. Warner Jr., a Virginia Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, issued a joint statement rejecting Bush’s assertion that he can waive the restrictions on the use of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment against detainees to protect national security.  ‘We believe the president understands Congress’s intent in passing, by very large majorities, legislation governing the treatment of detainees,’ the senators said. ‘The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation. Our committee intends through strict oversight to monitor the administration’s implementation of the new law.’” [Boston Globe, 1/5/06]

Senator Graham Emphasized Importance of Bush’s Adherence to Detainee Treatment Law.  “Separately, the third primary sponsor of the detainee treatment law, Senator Lindsey O. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told the Globe in a phone interview that he agreed with everything McCain and Warner said ‘and would go a little bit further.  I do not believe that any political figure in the country has the ability to set aside any . . . law of armed conflict that we have adopted or treaties that we have ratified,’ Graham said. ‘If we go down that road, it will cause great problems for our troops in future conflicts because [nothing] is to prevent other nations’ leaders from doing the same.’” [Boston Globe, 1/5/06]

Senator Graham Supports Legislation to Declare Waterboarding Illegal. “Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a military lawyer, says he would support such legislation [declaring waterboarding illegal]. ‘If we go down the road of trying to reserve in special circumstances our ability to breach conventions and laws that we have enacted for the good, then we will have in my opinion, given the enemy a great victory,’ he explained. ‘The world is not short of people in countries who will waterboard you. There is not a shortage of people who will cut your heads off in the name of religion. There is a shortage of people who believe in justice, not vengeance.’ Waterboarding has been condemned as torture by human rights groups, and the United States prosecuted a Japanese soldier for a war crime, because he used the technique on a civilian during World War II. The U.S. military has banned the practice, but human-rights groups say the Central Intelligence Agency has used it on terrorism suspects in recent years.”  [Global, 11/6/07]