US Senate votes to ban torture
WASHINGTON - The US Senate voted on Tuesday to ban torture during interrogations, a measure aimed at ending brutal techniques that were used on terror suspects following the 9/11 attacks of 2001.
The measure passed overwhelmingly, 78 votes to 21, with all members of the Democratic caucus and 32 Republicans in support.
They included Republican co-sponsor John McCain, who was tortured in Vietnam, where he was a prisoner of war for more than five years after he was shot down over Hanoi in 1967.
"This amendment provides greater assurances that never again will the United States follow that dark path of sacrificing our values for our short-term security needs," said McCain, who has pushed for years to end the practice.
The ban passed in the form of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016, which is under debate in Congress.
The Senate and House would both have to pass the broader bill for the torture ban to head to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature, but that is a question mark.
The White House last month said Obama threatened to veto the defense bill because it short-changes key administration priorities.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who led a years-long investigation on the use of torture and released a startling report late last year describing the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) use of brutal techniques such as "waterboarding" and rectal feeding, also co-sponsored the torture measure.
The report on CIA torture released in December also cited cases of forced nudity, ice baths, cramped confinement and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" against suspects.
“These harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests,” Obama said in a statement after the torture report’s release.
Regarding the Senate vote on Tuesday, Feinstein said: "Today's vote puts the Senate on record that there can be no return to the era of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques and that President Obama's executive order (against torture) should be enacted into law,"
Should the amendment become law, it will "limit interrogations to the Army Field Manual", she said.
It would also require that the International Committee of the Red Cross be provided access to detainees in US government custody.