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June 30, 2016

Generals and Admirals Urge Party Platform Committees to Reject Torture

Washington, D.C.—Sixty-two of the nation’s most respected retired generals and admirals urged the Republican and Democratic Platform Committees to unequivocally reject the use of torture. The call comes as political candidates from across the United States raise the issue in response to this week's terrorism attack in Turkey.

“As retired military leaders of the U.S. Armed Forces, we committed our professional lives to defending the national security of the United States and to upholding the Constitution… This is not, and should not be, a partisan issue,” wrote the retired generals and admirals. “Waterboarding and other so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ are also prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and other sources of international law, and therefore are not lawful or appropriate to use in the fight against terrorism.”

In September of last year, a group of retired military leaders and interrogation and intelligence professionals sent a letter to all candidates for president urging them to publicly reject the use of torture as it is illegal, counterproductive, and detrimental to national security. 

“The use of torture has done immeasurable damage to our national security,” said retired Army Lieutenant General Charles Otstott. “If we are really going to be tough on terrorism, we need to reject torture unequivocally. As someone who has dedicated his life to defending this nation, I know that torture makes Americans less safe.”

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—which passed in a 78-21 vote in the Senate and was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2016 Fiscal Year—is an historic victory in the fight to reestablish a durable, bipartisan consensus against torture.

The amendment 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.

“We have diverse political affiliations and opinions, but we are in firm and unanimous agreement that the United States is strongest when it remains faithful to its core values.  We are asking the platform committees of both major parties to send a clear message that the next President of the United States will uphold our obligations under international and domestic law, and reaffirm the United States’ long-standing and proper role as a world leader on human rights,” wrote the generals and admirals.

Many signatories of today’s letter are part of a larger group of retired generals and admirals who speak out against torture and work to ensure that U.S. policy reflects a single standard of prisoner treatment consistent with the Geneva Conventions. The group worked closely with Senator McCain in 2005 to pass the Detainee Treatment Act which banned torture and limited lawful interrogation to techniques listed in the Army Field Manual. In 2008 they shared their insights with eight presidential candidates from both parties that torture does immense harm to the reputation of the United States and undermines efforts to combat terrorism. More recently, they supported Senators McCain and Feinstein in their effort to pass the anti-torture amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, mentioned above.

For more information contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.