A Sweeping Victory for the McCain-Feinstein Anti-Torture Measure

The anti-torture measure that David talks about here passed the Senate by an overwhelming majority today of 78-21.  Not that this should be a surprise.  After all, as David wrote, the United States has long opposed torture and both international and domestic law prohibits it, as well as other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.  This legislation, however, goes farther than a general ban.  It explicitly defines what that means — limiting wartime interrogations to the tactics expressly authorized by the Army Field Manual (which are explicitly permitted to evolve over time, so long as they did not involve the use of force or threat of force), and guaranteeing the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all wartime detainees. If enacted into law (the amendment was added to the Senate version of the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which still awaits final passage, a conference agreement with the House, and then eventual passage of the agreed-upon version by both chambers and signature of the President), it would etch into statute the kinds of specific requirements that ensure existing anti-torture and cruel treatment bans are complied with.

Most importantly, the vote today reaffirms what we all already know.  Americans oppose torture.   It is inconsistent with our values and ultimately undermines our national security.  Today’s strong bipartisan vote confirms that. 

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Daskal

Associate Professor at American University Washington College of Law Follow her on Twitter (@jendaskal).