On December 12, 2007 thirty-one retired generals wrote a letter to the chairs of the House and Senate committees on intelligence expressing their strong unanimous support for Section 327 requiring intelligence agents of the U.S. government to adhere to the standards of prisoner treatment and interrogation contained in the U.S. Army Field Manual on Human Collector Operations (the Army Field Manual).
Yes, the signers were all retired, but they quote from an open letter to the troops in May from General David Petraeus, who is not retired and who is Commanding General in Iraq, President Bush’s chosen leader for the new strategy in Iraq:
What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight. . . . is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect…. Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone “talk;” however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact, our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.
The next day, defying a White House veto threat, the House of Representatives voted to outlaw harsh interrogation methods, such as simulated drowning, that the CIA has used against suspected terrorists. Reuters issued this report:
On a largely party line vote of 222-199, the Democratic-led House approved a measure to require intelligence agents to comply with the Army Field Manual, which bans torture in compliance with the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.
The measure, part of a sweeping intelligence bill, passed amid a congressional probe into the recent disclosure that the CIA destroyed videotapes of al Qaeda suspects undergoing waterboarding, a simulated drowning.
Many countries, U.S. lawmakers and human rights groups have accused the United States of torturing terror suspects since the September 11 attacks.
President George W. Bush says the United States does not torture, but the administration will not disclose what interrogation methods it has approved for the CIA. In threatening to veto the House-passed measure, which now awaits Senate action, the White House argued it would prevent the United States from conducting "lawful interrogations of senior al Qaeda terrorists.
This afternoon I received an alert from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) that the Senate may vote on this bill in the first two weeks of February and that some Republican Senators have threatened to obstruct passage of H.R. 2082 as long as it contains Section 327 (the anti-torture provision).
NRCAT is a growing membership organization committed to ending U.S.-sponsored torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Since its formation in January 2006, over 130 religious groups have joined the inter-faith effort, including representatives from the Roman Catholic, evangelical Christian, mainline Protestant, Unitarian, Quaker, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities. Members include national denominations and faith groups, regional organizations and congregations. This is what they said:
Passage of Section 327 is one of the most important actions Congress can take to stop U.S. sponsored torture. We need to do everything we can to win passage of Section 327 in the Senate. Defeating the attempts to block H.R. 2082 or to strip Section 327 from the bill will take 60 votes. We need your help.
NARCAT is asking that in the last two weeks of January every person who wants to see an end to U.S. sponsored torture contact their Senators by phone or email to express support for Section 327 of H.R. 2082. Call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121. They are also asking for us to write letters to the editor of the local newspaper.
Will you act?