February 03, 2017

Senate Ranking Members Write to Secretary of Defense & CIA Director Opposing Return to Ineffective, Immoral Policies on Torture & Detention

According to press reports, the Trump Administration is considering an Executive Order that would review a return to torture, re-open CIA black sites, and direct DoD to continue using the prison at Guantanamo Bay

WASHINGTON — The Ranking Members of the Senate Intelligence, Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Judiciary and Appropriations Committees have sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo expressing alarm at reports that Administration is reportedly considering an Executive Order that would revoke the bans on CIA “black site” detention facilities and interrogation techniques that aren’t in the U.S. Army Field Manual.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Administration is considering an Executive Order to review resuming CIA “black site” detention and prohibited interrogation activities (potentially including, among other practices, waterboarding), making changes to the Army Field Manual on Interrogation, as well as sending additional detainees to the detention facility at Guantanamo. Those reports, as well as comments by the President, have created alarm that this administration may be preparing a return to policies and practices that are ineffective, contrary to our national values, and damaging to our national security,” wrote the Senators.

The letter was signed by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence; Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee; Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee; and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

“Torture is immoral and deeply contrary to the principles of this nation. Beyond that, it is widely recognized as ineffective and even counter-productive, as it produces unreliable information,” wrote the Senators. “The use of torture and secret foreign prisons were a boon to terrorist groups, helping their propaganda and recruitment efforts.  Moreover, these practices frayed our relations with key allies, some of whom have faced legal liability before their own or international courts.  Similarly, these practices put our own forces and personnel at risk of legal liability and being subjected to harsh treatment when they are detained.”

According to press reports, a draft of the Executive Order also asserts it is in “the interests of the United States” to maintain the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Senators reminded Secretary Mattis and Director Pompeo that both the Bush and Obama administrations worked to close the detention center at Guantanamo because they realized that both the moral and financial costs were not justified and that there were better, more humane alternatives.

“We cannot go back to those practices if we want the United States of America to continue to serve as a beacon of justice, law and human rights for the world. We appreciate your firm commitments in the confirmation process to follow the law.  We remain firmly opposed to changing the law or any policy that could bring back these abhorrent and ineffective practices,” the Senators told Secretary Mattis and Director Pompeo.


The full text of today’s letter follows. A PDF of the letter is available here.

 

The Honorable James N. Mattis, Secretary of Defense

The Honorable Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA

Dear Secretary Mattis and Director Pompeo:

We are deeply concerned by reports that the Administration is considering an Executive Order to review resuming CIA “black site” detention and prohibited interrogation activities (potentially including, among other practices, waterboarding), making changes to the Army Field Manual on Interrogation, as well as sending additional detainees to the detention facility at Guantanamo. Those reports, as well as comments by the President, have created alarm that this administration may be preparing a return to policies and practices that are ineffective, contrary to our national values, and damaging to our national security.

The United States Constitution, numerous statutes, and international legal obligations have long provided the legal framework for the prevention of and prosecution for acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. To strengthen this prohibition, the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act prohibits interrogation techniques not authorized by the Army Field Manual, as well as any changes to the Field Manual involving the use or threat of force.  The statute also requires that the International Committee of the Red Cross be provided notification of, and prompt access to, detainees held by the United States. 

Torture is immoral and deeply contrary to the principles of this nation. Beyond that, it is widely recognized as ineffective and even counter-productive, as it produces unreliable information.  The use of torture and secret foreign prisons were a boon to terrorist groups, helping their propaganda and recruitment efforts.  Moreover, these practices frayed our relations with key allies, some of whom have faced legal liability before their own or international courts.  Similarly, these practices put our own forces and personnel at risk of legal liability and being subjected to harsh treatment when they are detained.  Reckless talk of torture shows a stunning disregard for the men and women who serve this country and seek to uphold this country’s highest standards as well as the allies who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us.

Lastly, both the Bush and Obama administrations worked to close the detention center at Guantanamo because they realized that both the moral and financial costs were not justified and that there were better and more humane alternatives. As President Obama stated in a recent letter to Congress on this issue, “history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to bring it to a responsible end.”

We cannot go back to those practices if we want the United States of America to continue to serve as a beacon of justice, law and human rights for the world.

We appreciate your firm commitments in the confirmation process to follow the law.  We remain firmly opposed to changing the law or any policy that could bring back these abhorrent and ineffective practices.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

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