ACLU Applauds House Support for McCain Anti-Torture Amendment, But Denounces Proposed Secret Deal to Undermine Rule of Law

December 14, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives today supported an anti-torture amendment to the Defense Department spending bill to restore the rule of law in military interrogations, despite calls from the White House that the president would veto such a measure. The American Civil Liberties Union applauded lawmakers, but also denounced reports that a proposed back-room deal between key lawmakers and the White House will lead to a dilution of that very amendment.

In a 308 to 122 vote, the House adopted a "motion to instruct conferees," urging House negotiators to support the McCain amendment as they work with their Senate counterparts to reconcile the differing spending bills. McCain’s proposal uses the Army’s field manual on interrogations as the legal standard for interrogation policies and reinforces the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The proposed back-room changes to the McCain and Graham amendments could limit liability for government officials violating government-wide prohibitions against torture and abuse, even when they have tortured U.S. citizens in federal custody within the fifty states; allow evidence obtained by torture and abuse to be the basis for indefinitely holding a person; cut off all access to the courts by persons held at Guantanamo Bay, except for very limited appeals; and undermine the legislation’s provisions for applying the Constitution to government actions at Guantanamo Bay.

The following can be attributed to Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel:

"Today, the House voted to stand for the rule of law. The White House and its allies have done their best to cover up the torture scandal, but lawmakers recognized that Americans deserve a commitment from their government that torture and abuse are not acceptable.

"But the wheeling and dealing doesn’t stop. While today’s vote is a step in the right direction, it is severely undermined by reports that a secret back-room deal has been brokered that would undermine the very principles the House affirmed today. This proposed last-minute, closed-door deal that undermines the rule of law must not be allowed to pass. These changes will be a big step backward in stopping the government from using torture and abuse during interrogations. Instead of putting an end to the federal government’s use of torture and abuse, the proposed deal would remove many protections against torture and abuse.

"If the dealmakers get their way, for the first time in its history, Congress would authorize the use of evidence obtained by torture and would provide special rights for government officials who commit torture or abuse. In addition, it would also mark the first time in modern history that Congress stripped all courts, including the Supreme Court, of jurisdiction to stop torture or abuse, or other violations of due process. We urge all lawmakers to reject these proposals and stand for the rule of law."

To read the ACLU’s letter to Congress on the proposed closed-door deal, go to:

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