Blog of Rights

Caroline Fredrickson: It's Time to Turn on the Cameras and Stop Torture

By Caroline Fredrickson, Washington Legislative Office & Caroline Fredrickson, Washington Legislative Office at 4:09pm

Last night, the House of Representatives adopted an important provision to end torture and abuse during interrogations. While the amendment's name sounds like an unpronounceable law firm: the Holt/Tauscher/Grijalva/Schakowsky Amendment (to the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act), the effect of the amendment, if enacted, would be powerful. The amendment requires the recording and retention of videos of interrogations of people in the Defense Department's custody. The amendment would bring these interrogations into line with recommended best practices for military and law enforcement interrogations — increasing accountability for compliance with anti-torture laws.

Torture and America

This amendment does a great deal to restore justice and humanity to our nation's interrogation policies. A hat tip to Representatives Holt, Tauscher, Grijalva and Schakowsky for offering this vital amendment that begins to undo the damage done to our nation's values caused by recent revelations of torture by American personnel.

This straightforward videotaping requirement may do more to shut down the government's torture program than many of the new laws passed by Congress. Federal interrogators will soon learn what hundreds of police departments using videotape for interrogations have learned — it's harder to break the law when the camera is running.

The Holt/Tauscher/Grijalva/Schakowsky Amendment passed by a vote of 218-192, with 15 Republicans and 23 Democrats breaking party ranks. Last year, the amendment lost, with 12 Republicans and 44 Democrats breaking party ranks, meaning the amendment's sponsors, the ACLU, and other opponents of torture picked up 3 Republicans and 21 Democrats since last year's vote.

Now, the President has said he will veto the legislation if it gets to his desk. But we are gaining allies even on the Republican side of the isle, and the American people are leading Congress to get serious about ending the abuses of the Bush administration. Starting with ending torture and closing Guantanamo.

The ACLU letter to House of Representatives urging support of the Video Recording of Interrogations Amendment is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/general/35440leg20080522.html

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