January 22, 2009

Whitehouse Applauds President’s Move to Ban Torture

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), one of the original sponsors of legislation banning the use of torture by U.S. interrogators, today applauded President Barack Obama’s issuance of executive orders to make such a prohibition the law of the land.

“Today, President Obama has reaffirmed America’s highest ideals, and signaled that America will once again be empowered by those ideals. They are at once our greatest gift and our greatest strength,” said Whitehouse, a former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General for Rhode Island and member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Torture is ineffective, unnecessary, and wrong – it weakened our alliances, damaged our standing, threatened our own soldiers, and besmirched the principles so many Americans have given their lives to protect. A dark cloud has been lifted, a new day has begun.”

In July 2007, Whitehouse was the principal sponsor of an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill that would require the CIA and all other U.S. intelligence agencies to follow the Army Field Manual in interrogations. The manual bans waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods.

When that amendment failed in the Senate Intelligence Committee, Whitehouse joined Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and several others to fight to add the amendment during House-Senate conference negotiations on the bill. That time, it passed. President Bush vetoed the measure in March 2008.

During debate over the 2009 Intelligence Authorization bill, the Intelligence Committee again approved a Feinstein-Whitehouse amendment banning torture, as well as two other amendments prohibiting contractors from carrying out interrogations on behalf of intelligence agencies, and ending secret detentions by providing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to detainees in custody of all U.S. intelligence agencies.

Whitehouse, Feinstein, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) also introduced the provision on secret detentions as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization bill.


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