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Democrats Strip Torture Amendment From Intelligence Bill

February 26, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The House today could vote on an intelligence authorization bill for the current fiscal year, but only after an amendment allowing criminal prosecutions for CIA officers engaging in torture was stripped from it.

The House was supposed to consider the Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R.2701) yesterday but it was pulled from the floor at the last minute over the torture amendment drafted by Rep. Silvestre Reyes [D, TX-16]. The provision allows for a 15-year sentence for any intelligence community official who engages in torture. The Washington Independent has more:

Specifically, the proposed Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Interrogations Prohibition Act proscribes “forcing the individual to be naked, perform sexual acts or pose in a sexual manner” — a la Abu Ghraib — “beatings, electrical shock, burns, or inflicting physical pain; waterboarding; using military working dogs; inducing hypothermia” — it happened at Guantanamo to Mohammed al-Qatani — sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, denial of medical care, “using force or the threat of force”; “mock executions;” religious desecration in an intelligence context; “sensory deprivation”; “prolonged isolation”; “placing hoods or sacks over the heads of the individual;” “exploiting the phobias of the individual” and more. Basically, it clarifies that the entire parade of outside-the-Army-Field-Manual-on-Interrogation horrors during the Bush administration are criminal acts. We’ll see if this ever actually makes it to President Obama’s desk.

House Republicans object to the idea because they feel it places dangerous limits on the intelligence community. They also object to the manner in which the provision was included in the intelligence bill as David Waldman explains:

The provisions in question were added to the manager’s amendment approved for floor action in Wednesday night’s Rules Committee hearing, and Republicans felt blindsided, no doubt as though someone had thrown a hood over their heads, bound their hands and throttled them. Adding this measure to the manager’s amendment has the effect of allowing the House Intelligence Committee to bypass having hearings on the proposal, and holding a vote in committee on including it in the bill. There’s still a vote on the floor, but only on the overall manager’s amendment, which contains a number of not necessarily related provisions, so the vote’s not very “clean” on the issue.

An attempt to simply excise the amendment from the intelligence bill through unanimous consent was thwarted by House Republicans, forcing the Democrats to remove the entire bill from the floor.

Republicans, however, weren’t the only ones opposed to Slaughter’s torture provision. Democratic House leaders felt the controversial idea would sink the entire bill and the White House opposes the provision over concerns that it infringes on the executive power of the president.

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