With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act amendment in the Senate, the United States is one step closer to permanently banning the use of torture as a means of interrogation. Yet not every senator is in favor of keeping that practice out of the field. In fact, over 20 percent of the Senate voted against continuing a prohibition on tactics like water-boarding, and some of those who approve could potentially be in the White House depending on the results of the 2016 presidential election.
According to Newsweek, the Senate passed the amendment with a 78 to 21 vote majority, agreeing that torture methods should not be employed in the field. The amendment being approved would codify a 2009 executive order that was already blocking torturous methods of interrogation and make it permanent.
“The vote would amend interrogation methods, limiting the methods to those in the Army Field Manual,” reports Newsweek. “This manual would be updated every three years to ensure it was up to the standard of ‘current, evidence-based, [and] best practices for interrogation.’ Under the new measure, the Red Cross would have prompt access to prisoners of the US government.”
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The vote was praised by Arizona Senator and Republican John McCain, himself a victim of torture in Vietnam. “I know from personal experience that use of prisoners does not provide good, reliable intelligence,” McCain said in a statement. “I firmly believe that all people, even captured enemies, are protected by basic human rights.”
The 21 who opposed banning torture were all of the Republican party and were often a unified slate in their state, such as both senators from Utah, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Idaho and South Carolina. Others were those highly aligned with the Tea Party, such as Kentucky Senator and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, and Louisiana Senator David Vitter.
The most interesting breakdown of who does and doesn’t support torture is within the potential GOP presidential slate. Of those senators who have declared they plan to run, only South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, who is usually seen among his party as somewhat more moderate, voted against the amendment. “In the War on Terror, it is imperative we have interrogation techniques that are lawful, classified and beyond the Army Field Manual,” said Graham, according to CNN. “High-value targets possess valuable intelligence, and we should not limit ourselves to the Army Field Manual, which is published online and was never meant to be the exhaustive, exclusive system governing interrogation.”
Meanwhile, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Texas Senator Ted Cruz both supported the ban. “Torture is wrong, unambiguously,” Cruz said in a statement. “Civilized nations do not engage in torture and Congress has rightly acted to make absolutely clear that the United States will not engage in torture. This amendment puts all of our intelligence, law enforcement, and defense personnel on the same page as they work together to keep America safe and our counterterrorism abilities strong.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, on the other hand, missed the vote all together. Rubio’s office later informed media that he would have been the 22nd “no” vote on the amendment. “‘I would have voted no on this amendment. I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use,'” reports the Miami Herald. “He added that he doesn’t want to deny ‘future commanders in chief and intelligence officials important tools for protecting the American people and the US homeland.'”
The breakdown of the presidential candidates for and against codifying a ban on torture during interrogation is yet another reminder of all that is at stake in the upcoming election. With a country continuing to be engaged in military efforts overseas and fixated on the possibility of terrorism either within or outside our borders, setting hard limits on what actions we will and will not allow in the name of defense is essential. Meanwhile, half of the senators running for the White House say that torture shouldn’t be removed as an option.
One of them could potentially be the leader of our country in less that two years.