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Home / Press Release / President Obama Signs National Defense Authorization Act Solidifying Ban on Torture
November 25, 2015

President Obama Signs National Defense Authorization Act Solidifying Ban on Torture

Washington, D.C. – President Obama today signed into law an updated defense authorization bill that includes a landmark provision reinforcing the United States’ ban on the use of torture. Human Rights First notes, however, that other provisions in the bill will severely hamper the president’s ability to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay by the end of his term in office. 

 “This legislation is an historic victory in the fight to reestablish a durable, bipartisan consensus against torture,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “Torture violated our laws and betrayed our ideals. Now, no amount of loophole lawyering will be able to bring us back to the dark side.”

The legislation is supported by dozens of intelligence and interrogation professionals and retired generals and admirals, including Frank Anderson, a 26-year CIA veteran and former chief of the CIA’s Near East and South Asia Division. “After 9/11, we did many things out of fear and anger, including torture. This legislation is an attempt to right that wrong and an acknowledgment that torture is ineffective in producing actionable intelligence,“ said Anderson.

Gen. David Petreaus, former Director of the CIA has stated, “I strongly support the extension of the provisions of the U.S. Army Field Manual that currently govern the actions of the U.S. military to all U.S. government personnel and contractors. Our Nation has paid a high price in recent decades for the information gained by the use of techniques beyond those in the field manual – and, in my view, that price far outweighed the value of the information gained through the use of techniques beyond those in the manual.”

The amendment, designed to prevent any future administration from authorizing torture and other cruelty that violates domestic or international law, will:

  • Restrict the intelligence community—and the CIA in particular—to interrogation methods articulated in the Army Field Manual; and
  • Require that the International Committee of the Red Cross be provided notification of and access to detainees held in U.S. custody.

Last month President Obama vetoed an earlier version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) over language that would make it more difficult to shutter the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Human Rights First urges the president to present a plan to Congress detailing the steps the administration intends to take to close Guantanamo. The administration should also immediately increase the pace at which cleared detainees are transferred and other detainees are given administrative reviews of their statuses to determine if they can be transferred.

Thirty-two of the nation’s most respected retired generals and admirals urged President Obama to submit a plan to Congress detailing actions the administration will take to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Signatories the letter are members of a larger group of retired military leaders who have long advocated for closing Guantanamo. Many of them stood behind President Obama on his second day in office in 2009 as he signed the executive order to close Guantanamo within one year.

There are 107 detainees at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. Military leaders and national security experts agree that the facility harms national security and should be closed. Forty-eight of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer, and another 48 are eligible for Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings. Human Rights First notes that PRB reviews should have been completed for every eligible detainee over three years ago. Detainees who are not cleared for transfer, or who will face prosecution, will likely need to be transferred to the United States in order to close Guantanamo.

“If President Obama is serious about closing Guantanamo by the end of his term in office, he is running out of time to act, and history will judge him for that inaction,” noted Wala. “This should be a national security priority for the administration, and releasing a plan to Congress would signal that the administration intends to treat closing Guantanamo as such.”

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