Today, the United States Senate voted – by a bipartisan majority of 78 to 21 – to require all employees and agents of the U.S. government to follow interrogation guidelines and techniques outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations. The legislation – offered as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 (NDAA) – was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Susan Collins (R-ME). In assuring that the standards of the U.S. Army Field Manual are upheld during detainee interrogations, the Senators and their supporters aim to prevent the use of torture on individuals under U.S. government control while continuing to ensure the preservation of American national security.
Last week, Partnership for a Secure America released a bipartisan policy statement asserting that, “The United States detainee interrogation policy can live up to American values and, at the same time, protect U.S. national security.” The statement was signed by leading Republican and Democratic national security experts with service in Congress, the executive branch, and civil society. It offers bipartisan support for sustained use of the U.S. Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations standards during detainee interrogations and aims to garner support in Congress to actively, effectively oversee America’s intelligence community to ensure adherence to these guidelines.
During his first term, President Obama issued an executive order to restrict interrogation of detainees to techniques detailed in the Army Field Manual. However, executive orders can be modified or rescinded by subsequent administrations. The amendment passed on Tuesday will codify these restrictions into law and ensure that the use of torture during interrogations is not made permissible under future administrations. In the days ahead, the Senate will continue to consider the NDAA and additional amendments. If passed, the bill will then be considered at a conference of both the House and Senate. The final stop for the bill, if passed at the conference, will be President Obama’s desk. If the NDAA is signed by President Obama, the bill and its amendments will enter into law.