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ACTION ALERT: Torture Permission to be Slipped into Law?


October 29, 2005
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Supporters of the McCain anti-torture amendment to the military spending bill have no time to enjoy the amendment’s overwhelming 90-9 bi-partisan passage in the Senate. The president has threatened to use his first veto to secure his power to invoke torture as a political tool, despite domestic and international law.

The vice-president of the United States is publically advocating giving a US government agency statutory authority to use torture.

Supporters of the McCain anti-torture amendment to the military spending bill have no time to enjoy the amendment’s overwhelming 90-9 bi-partisan passage in the Senate. The amendment may be rendered meaningless by loopholes under consideration in conference committee.

We must act now, telling Congress that no matter which government agency, no matter where, and no matter how the president characterizes the circumstances, United States forces do not ever have permission to torture or use cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Background
President Bush has threatened to veto the 2006 military appropriations bill (H.R. 2863) because the Senate amended its version of the bill to require that:

• (1) treatment of all Department of Defense (DoD) detainees or detainees held in DoD facilities must follow the Army Field Manual for Intelligence Interrogation; and

• (2) the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (to which the US is a signatory) governs all US detainees. Read the text of the amendment.

The president’s congressional allies were initially rumored to have plans to strip the amendment from the bill. However, the lopsided, bi-partisan vote in the Senate signaled a powerful political incentive for the conference committee to retain the amendment in the bill.

Instead of working to strip the amendment, the administration and its supporters have suggested revisions to the amendment that would water it down to the point of meaninglessness.

Vice-President Cheney proposed his own “compromise” plan to Sen. McCain last week (week of Oct. 10). The Cheney Plan would exempt the CIA from the provisions of the anti-torture amendment. This plan is so shocking, it bears repeating:
the vice-president of the United States is publically advocating giving a US government agency statutory authority to use torture.

This proposal is especially dangerous in light of the administration’s support for moving all intelligence functions out of the Pentagon and the FBI and into the CIA’s portfolio.

Other proponents of allowing brutal treatment under some circumstances have suggested other loopholes to the amendment, e.g., presidential waiver (the president could, using his own judgment, waive the prohibition in the interest of national security); geographic limitation (torture would be prohibited only in certain locations, such as on US soil); or non-applicability of the amendment during "classified" interrogations.

The president argues that the McCain amendment ties the president’s hands in his efforts to preserve national security in the post-September 11 world. He also claims that as commander-in-chief, he has the authority to determine the rules by which detainees in the "war against terror" are handled.

Human rights supporters disagree, pointing to the US Constitution, Art. I, sec. 8: "The Congress shall have Power ... To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water." (emphasis added)

Human rights advocates reiterate that torture

• is inhumane;
• doesn’t reflect our country’s moral values;
• undermines human rights standards worldwide;
• creates legions of enemies of the US;
• brings danger of retaliation on US troops and travelers abroad; and
• does not work - it does not produce reliable intelligence information.

Take Action
Please contact your congressional delegation, including both of your senators and your representative.
• Tell them that the McCain amendment must not be altered during conference committee to lessen its provisions.
• Tell them that every member of Congress has the responsibility to make sure that US moral values and sound military principles are upheld by preserving the McCain amendment to the 2006 military appropriations bill, intact for the president’s signature.

• See FCNL’s web site to find a sample letter and contact your members of Congress directly. You will need to enter your zip code to see the sample letter.

• Check the FCNL website for further background information about the use of torture.

• Contact Congress and the Administration: http://capwiz.com/fconl/dbq/officials/

OTHER CAMPAIGNS
• Stop New Nuclear Weapons! Find out how, http://www.fcnl.org/nuclear

• The Next Step for Iraq: Join FCNL's Iraq Campaign, http://www.fcnl.org/iraq

• Subscribe to other FCNL legislative, policy, and action alert lists:
http://www.fcnl.org/forms/forms.php?type=ls.

Friends Committee on National Legislation, 245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795
fcnl@fcnl.org * www.fcnl.org
(202)547-6000: (800)630-1330

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