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November 25, 2015

The McCain-Feinstein Amendment: Talking Points

  • National security experts, including our nation’s most respected military and intelligence leaders, support the McCain-Feinstein amendment because it enhances national security while preventing unlawful detainee abuse. All national security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies in government—including DOD, DNI, CIA, STATE, and FBI—support the single-standard approach outlined in the McCain-Feinstein amendment. CIA Director John Brennan said: “[W]hile I am the Director of the CIA, [the enhanced interrogation program] will not under any circumstances be reinitiated. I personally remain firm in my belief that enhanced interrogation techniques are not an appropriate method to obtain intelligence and that their use impairs our ability to continue to play a leadership role in the world.”
  • The McCain-Feinstein amendment takes torture and detainee abuse off the table, but allows interrogators to use any effective and lawful interrogation practices that are currently available or developed in the future. Abusive techniques such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and sensory deprivation are not allowed under the McCain-Feinstein amendment. However, the amendment mandates a review of the AFM so that it can be updated based on the latest research and best practices in national security interrogations.
  • By building off the bi-partisan approach of the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), The McCain-Feinstein amendment provides an opportunity to reinforce our country’s bi-partisan opposition to torture and cruel treatment of detainees. The DTA, which was overwhelming approved on a bi-partisan basis in Congress, applied the Army Field Manual’s (AFM) effective, lawful, and humane interrogation approaches throughout the military. The McCain-Feinstein amendment builds off of the DTA to establish the AFM as the single, government-wide standard for national security interrogations so that interrogators won’t ever again be asked to engage in torture or cruel treatment.
  • The McCain-Feinstein amendment makes sure that interrogators can never again be placed in legal limbo based on dubious, secret legal interpretations. While Congress has already banned torture and cruel treatment, in the years after 9/11 lawyers in the executive branch secretly authorized abusive techniques such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, painful stress positions, and cramped confinement boxes. By setting out a clear list of lawful and effective interrogation approaches, the McCain-Feinstein amendment ensures that interrogators are never again asked to cross the line into illegal detainee abuse.
  • A strong majority of Americans support strengthening the laws against torture to clarify the rules of the road for interrogators, as the McCain-Feinstein amendment does. A majority of Americans, including 56% of Republicans, support a legislative proposal to “strengthen U.S. laws against torture by making it clearer to the CIA and to the military what behavior is legal and what is illegal, when interrogating people who may have information about terrorists.” 

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