Yesterday, the AP reported that Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) is promoting legislation in an attempt to obstruct congressional efforts to create a single standard of humane treatment for all interrogations. While at first glance this might seem like a step toward putting an end to the CIA’s illegal interrogation program, Senator Bond’s proposal appears to be crafted to permit cruel interrogations practices. Here’s why:
- The techniques listed in the proposal are already illegal as Senators John Warner and Carl Levin attested during the Military Commissions Act debate.
- The proposal outlined by Senator Bond uses language that is significantly weaker than the actual Army Field Manual language it purports to borrow from. While the Field Manual bans all forms of “physical pain” the proposed language only bans pain that is “similar” to beatings, electric shock and burns. This could be interpreted as permitting “stress positions” such as the “long-time standing” technique which reportedly involves making a prisoner stand absolutely motionless for more than 40 straight hours.
- The proposal’s list of cruel actions is extremely under-inclusive. It is simply impossible to identify every form of torture and inhumanity. For example, the proposal says nothing about sleep deprivation which has been denounced by Senator John McCain and the Supreme Court as a brutal form of torture. The proposal could be interpreted as permitting the cruel conduct it omits.
- There is a reason that the Army Field Manual list of examples of prohibited techniques is explicitly non-exclusive; the list is intended only to illustrate conduct that is prohibited by critical broader standards described elsewhere in the manual.
You might remember that, in December, Senator Bond claimed in an interview with PBS that waterboarding is similar to swimming.
GWEN IFILL: Do you think that waterboarding, as I described it, constitutes torture?
SEN. KIT BOND: There are different ways of doing it. It’s like swimming, freestyle, backstroke. The waterboarding could be used almost to define some of the techniques that our trainees are put through, but that’s beside the point. It’s not being used.