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February 28, 2017

Coats Commits to Following Law on Torture

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised comments made by Senator Dan Coats, nominee for director of national intelligence, in which he acknowledged the illegality of torture. Senator Coats, speaking before the Senate today, committed to following a law passed by Congress last year that bans such practices.

“Senator Coats’s statements today echo what we’ve heard from national security experts, intelligence professionals, and generals and admirals, who have long-advocated against the use of torture as it is illegal, immoral, and counterproductive,” said Human Rights First’s Heather Brandon.

Last month Trump Administration cabinet nominees rejected the use of torture, including Senator Jeff Sessions, General John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, and Representative Mike Pompeo, who all stated that they would abide by laws that ban the use of torture. President Trump had earlier revealed that General James Mattis, then-nominee for secretary of defense, warned him against the use of waterboarding.

Earlier this year 176 of the nation’s most respected retired generals and admirals sent a letter signed to then-President-elect Trump urging him to reject the use of torture. The letter, which includes 33 four-star generals and admirals, highlighted the United States’ historic bipartisan opposition to torture and called on the incoming president to continue this legacy.

“We have over six thousand years of combined experience in commanding and leading American men and women in war and in peace, and believe strongly in the values and ideals that our country holds dear. We know from experience that U.S. national security policies are most effective when they uphold those ideals,” wrote the generals and admirals. “For these reasons, we are concerned about statements made during the campaign about the use of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.”

Last year Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Feinstein (D-CA) sponsored landmark anti-torture legislation that reinforces the United States’ ban on the use of torture, including waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The legislation passed the Senate with the support of a broad bipartisan majority, which included the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence, armed services, homeland security, foreign relations, and judiciary committees.

For more information or to speak with Brandon, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319