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Seriously? Senate Considering Repeal of Anti-Torture Measures

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November 23, 2011

Yesterday, the ACLU and over 30 other organizations sent a letter to the Senate asking them to oppose an effort in Congress that threatens to revive the use of torture and other inhumane interrogation techniques. If passed, an amendment introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) to the Defense Authorization bill would roll back torture prevention measures that Congress overwhelmingly approved in the 2005 McCain Anti-Torture Amendment, as well as a 2009 Executive Order on ensuring lawful interrogations. It would also require the administration to create a secret list of approved interrogation techniques in a classified annex to the existing interrogation field manual.

In a related development, republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann renewed her attack on the prohibition of waterboarding and other forms of torture in her claim that the ACLU runs interrogations. But in fact, the director of the CIA, General David Petraeus and the Secretary of Defense (and former CIA Director) Leon Panetta have both said that the 2009 Executive Order applying the Army Field Manual government-wide and the 2005 McCain Anti-Torture Amendment work and are consistent with good national security.

Such a move to undermine these protections in the Senate would fly in the face of American values and U.S. legal obligations, and would obstruct U.S. military missions and endanger troops deployed abroad. The ACLU is far from alone in opposing the use of torture. Senior military officers and interrogation experts agree that U.S. interrogators need not and should not resort to so-called enhanced methods of interrogation because they are unnecessary and counterproductive. Even the Bush Defense Department opposed the inclusion of a secret annex to the military’s interrogation manual because such secrecy would inhibit training and obstruct collaboration with our allies in the field.

Our letter argues that we “cannot afford to return to practices that degraded our country in the eyes of the general public,” and asks the Senate to oppose the Ayotte Amendment. You can join our call by asking your Senators to oppose Amendment 1068.

The Senate will return to the Defense Authorization bill next week (we’re also fighting indefinite detention provisions tucked inside the bill — you can read more details here).

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