The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly, 78 to 21, Tuesday to outlaw all future use of brutal "enhanced interrogation" techniques such as waterboarding and "rectal feeding." The vote came months after Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee released the CIA torture report, which exposed the aforementioned methods and indicated that the intelligence value gleaned from "enhanced interrogation" -- in plainer words, torture -- was minimal. Those methods are not currently employed in the field, the government says.
President Barack Obama, days after entering office, signed an executive order prohibiting the use of said techniques. What the provision -- an amendment on the National Defense Authorization Act -- would do is codify that executive order and expand on other laws in place to make it unlawful for military branches under the Pentagon, and intelligence agencies such as the CIA, to resort to torture, regardless of whether the president's order remains in force.
“We must continue to insist that the methods we employ in this fight for peace and freedom must always, always, be as right and honorable as the goals and ideals we fight for,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, as quoted by the Hill. McCain is himself a former torture victim as a prisoner of war and vocal opponent to torture techniques.
The picture painted by last year’s torture report was pretty bleak. The programs were mismanaged, harsh interrogations weren’t properly reported, inmates were wrongfully detained, Congress and the White House were misled, classified information was leaked to journalists and the interrogation methods were harsher than initially expected. “The use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information” the report stated.
The report debunked several CIA examples of ways in which the enhanced interrogation was used effectively. Furthermore, the report found several instances in which the methods yielded fabricated results from inmates looking to avoid harsh treatment.
“Whether one may think of the CIA’s former detention and interrogation program, we should all agree that there should be no turning back to the era of torture,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on the floor before voting.
The Senate was expected to hold a vote Tuesday to further consider the NDAA.