Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Senators debate McCain amendment

KWAME HOLMAN: For the past four months, Arizona Republican John McCain has led a concerted effort in the United State Senate to prohibit the use of torture on detainees being held in U.S. custody on foreign soil.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: First, subjecting prisoners to abuse leads to bad intelligence because under torture, a detainee will tell his interrogator anything to make the pain stop. Second, mistreatment of our prisoners endangers U.S. troops who might be captured by the enemy, if not in this war, then in the next.

KWAME HOLMAN: Sen. McCain is one of the few members of Congress who can speak from experience. He was tortured over five and a half years in captivity during the Vietnam War.

But in his speeches, McCain has referenced more recent reports of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq and the U.S. detention center at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: If we inflict this cruel and inhumane treatment, the cruel actions of a few darken the reputation of our country in the eyes of millions. American values should win against all others in any war of ideas, and we can't let prisoner abuse tarnish our image.

KWAME HOLMAN: And so McCain wrote legislation that would establish uniform standards for the interrogation of persons under the detention of the Defense Department consistent with the Army field manual and prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under the custody or control of the United States Government.

Early last month, and despite strong opposition from the Bush administration, Sen. McCain attached that language to a defense appropriations bill and convinced all but nine of his colleagues to support it.

Again last Friday, McCain took the same language, pinned it to a defense authorization measure, and won without the Senate even bothering to hold a recorded vote.

SPOKESMAN: All those in favor say aye.

KWAME HOLMAN: Among the few senators opposed to the torture legislation has been Alaska Republican Ted Stevens who last month argued that some nonmilitary personnel should be exempt from it.

SEN. TED STEVENS: There are people who are not in uniform who may not even be citizens of the United States who represent us in very strange and dangerous places whose lives may be put in jeopardy by the process that is spelled out in part of this amendment.

There are some changes that have to be made if we're to be faithful to those people who live in the classified world and will be covered by the classified annex that -- you read the amendment, it is not covered here.

KWAME HOLMAN: Last week, Vice President Cheney visited the Senate and reportedly urged Republicans specifically to exempt the CIA from McCain's amendment.

That news report was followed by another that told of al-Qaida prisoners being held at secret CIA camps in Eastern Europe. Sen. McCain used that to argue the CIA should not be exempt.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The CIA wasn't set up to run prisons.

KWAME HOLMAN: Despite the overwhelming support in the Senate to attach the McCain torture amendment to two defense bills, there is no such language in either of the House bills. A Conference Committee made up of selected members of both chambers will decide whether the language stays or goes. MARGARET WARNER: And for more on this debate we turn to two senators who are on the House-Senate Conference Committee that's now hammering out the fate of the McCain amendment, as part of the military spending bill, the first bill that was voted on. Missouri Republican Christopher Bond was one of the nine senators who voted against the McCain amendment last month. And Illinois Democrat Sen. Richard Durbin voted for it.

Welcome, gentlemen.

Senator Durbin, you're in the midst of these negotiations, is the McCain amendment going to survive and end up in the military spending bill?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Well I certainly hope so, and although we haven't sat down in conference to make that final decision, if 90 senators vote in favor of that proposition, then it passes by voice vote. It's pretty clear what the sentiment is in the Senate. The difficulty we face is this: Vice President Cheney in particular has opposed this amendment from the start. And I just can't at this point really define with any clarity what the position of the administration is.

Of course the president in South America said this week that we are opposed to torture, while the vice president lobbies Capitol Hill to allow torture by some employees of the federal government. I can understand that this ambiguity may make sense in the White House. It doesn't make sense outside of the White House. I think it really calls into question our reputation in the world and threatens the safety of our troops.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Sen. Bond, first, your assessment -- and feel free to answer his arguments as well -- but your assessment of how things are going in the Conference Committee and whether the McCain amendment will survive.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: Frankly, I hope not. I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit about this because it has been mischaracterized.

The first thing we should point out is the United States Government does not condone permit, or accept torture. I think it's important to know that existing laws already on the books were used to punish and imprison people who did those gross and unlawful things at Abu Ghraib. They presented us with a black eye, and we punish people who go off the reservation. We do not permit torture, and the vice president has not come out in favor of torture.

But the point that has to be made is that we cannot set out for detainees, in advance, precisely what kinds of interrogation methods would be used. I have not been fully briefed -- I'm not in a position to get a full brief on what is permitted. But I have talked to special operatives of the CIA who operate under -- and have told me the strict guidelines under which they go and the kinds of thing they say do, which are no worse than what our troops go through in training and in the field.

MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Bond, let me just follow up by asking you about something that General Pace, the new head of the joint chiefs, said last night on the program in an interview with Jim Lehrer. And he was asked about the McCain amendment, and he said, and this is a quote, "It is perfectly fine to have the Army field manual for the detention of individuals as the bible" -- close quote -- of how to treat prisoners.
Now, if the Pentagon doesn't object to the McCain amendment, why should Congress?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: Because he is talking about the Army and the Marines. As the father of a U.S. Marine in Iraq, obviously, what General Pace says about the Marines goes. But the CIA uses different tactics that are not torture that are permitted only under strict guidelines, under the Department of Justice, and the lawyers and the agencies who limit what can be done.

We cannot outline in advance what the terrorists are going to be subjected to because that becomes the first chapter in the al-Qaida operations manual. The CIA was able to get the information from what they call high-value targets - al-Qaida and Baathist leaders -- that led to the disclosure of several terrorist attacks already planned and otherwise under way in the United States to the capture of Saddam Hussein.


SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: We think it's necessary to get information from these people, staying within the bounds, but not it telling them what kind of interrogation tactics they will use. Otherwise, the U.S. homeland is not safe as it should be from another 9-11 attack.

CIA exemptions

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Sen. Durbin, respond to that. Why not let the CIA operate under different rules. And is it not the case that in fact some CIA interrogations have yielded valuable intelligence?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: For over 200 years, we've had an American standard when it comes to the treatment of prisoners. And when we faced wars throughout our history, most recently after World War II and the Geneva Conventions, we have said that the United States has American values that do not countenance the use of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners, period. There is no exception that's written in there for the Central Intelligence Agency.

And now to suggest that we believe we can use torture in some parts of our government and not use it in others and still be able to stand up to the world and say we're standing by American values doesn't make any sense.

Sen. McCain, I think, was very eloquent on the floor. Only he can speak to this issue in the Senate the way he did. Torture does not produce worthy and reliable information. People who are being tortured will say anything to make the pain stop.

And in the meantime, while we try to carve out these nice exceptions for the CIA, I'm afraid we subject every American to the potential of torture being used against them.

MARGARET WARNER: What about Sen. Bond's point, though, that if you make it absolutely clear what the rules are, and the Army field manual is, I believe, a public document--


Margaret WarnerMARGARET WARNER: -- that, in fact, al-Qaida and other terrorists will be completely prepared for those particular procedures and will always be able -- will train themselves to resist them?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: And what's the alternative, that we will say we're going to use torture, countenance the use of torture? And then what happens when our soldiers are captured?

What happens -- our image of the world today, our image in the world is being assaulted because people are raising questions. Is this a different America? Has it changed from the values that it always stood for? Why is it that this administration believes we have to redefine these basic fundamental American values that we've stood for, for decades? I don't think it's going to make us any safer as a nation. In fact I think it makes it more dangerous.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: Let me answer that.


SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: First, I think we have got to be clear when senators, like my colleague from Illinois, say we use torture that is absolutely false. Sen. Durbin is the one who most recently compared our troops to the Nazis, the Soviets and their gulags, or the mad regimes of Pol Pot, and that is the kind of thing--

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: That's not true, Sen. Bond.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: Here it is from--

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: That is absolutely unfair. I can't believe this.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: -- from your quote from your talk to Shawn Hannity, Alan Combs, and Wesley Clark. I'm reading your quote directly.

Christopher Bond and Richard DurbinSEN. RICHARD DURBIN: It's really -- it's unfortunate that you're doing this.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: It's unfortunate that you're saying we're using torture.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: I did not say that.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: I did not say that.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: You said we're using torture -- and we are not using torture because torture does not produce good results. We don't tolerate; we punish people who do things like at Abu Ghraib--


MARGARET WARNER: Yes, go ahead, Sen. Durbin.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: I'd like to respond. I was reading from an F.B.I. report about activity -- this was a classified report that had been made available through ordinary legal channels that made available information about activity at Guantanamo, and its activity that has never been explained.

I don't know if that activity was made as part of a soldier's conduct or an intelligence agent's conduct. I have said before I should not have made some of those historic references.

But let's face it, when this issue finally came before the Senate you were in the minority; you were among the nine in the Senate who said we shouldn't stand and say unequivocally there should be no torture by our government.

Christopher BondSEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: That's not true. I did not say there should not be any torture -- you absolutely misquoted me.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: That's what the McCain amendment said.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: No. It went further than that and it said we will lay out for the detainees precisely what kind of interrogation they will go through, and I've talked to operatives who say that when the detainees know precisely what they're going to go to do they laugh at them.

We cannot get the kind of information we need to protect our troops in the field -- obviously, I'm personally concerned about that and I'm personally concerned about keeping us safe at home.

Torture in extreme cases

MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask Sen. Durbin about that, because that's the so-called ticking bomb kind of case that people talk about, that if a new captive, the CIA or whoever is handling him, believes that they have -- that that person has knowledge of an imminent attack on the United States here at home, you would not make an exception, even in that case, to use any extraordinary methods.

Richard DurbinSEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Well, we can define a case in the extreme, as you just have, and wonder exactly what would occur in that world, but if we start off with the premise that we are going to use torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, that it's acceptable for some people in our government to use it, what I'm saying is that we open the door.

It wouldn't apply to just the most extreme case. It could apply to any case, and that would be a departure from where we have been as a nation for many, many decades. I'd hate to see the United States go down that road. I can't believe that we'll be stronger or safer or that our troops will in fact be spared from danger if we do.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Sen. Bond, let me ask you about Vice President Cheney's visit to your Republican lunch last week. What was the main argument he was using with your fellow Republican senators -- 46 of whom vote for the McCain amendment -- in terms of wanting a CIA exemption, and do you think he change said any of their minds?

Christopher BondSEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: I'm not going to comment on what the vice president said, but to go back to what my colleague just said, he's talking about using torture. We don't use torture. It's not reliable. That's not what this is about. That has been mischaracterized, and it has been used politically to suggest that those of us that believe that the CIA must be able to use interrogation techniques that are no worse than what we put our special forces through in training and what my son, as a Marine recruit had to go through in his training, that's what gets the information --

MARGARET WARNER: Let me quickly get a clarification from you. The McCain amendment actually talks about outlawing cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Do you have a problem with that?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: It depends how you define it, and that is the problem. You could say that the training that our special forces go through is cruel and inhumane, and some of the things that our troops go through in their training when they're going through the basic training is, I would say, inhuman, the kinds of things that they put up with, sleep deprivation, exposure to cold and all kinds of situations. It does not constitute torture.

I'm not going to say what tactics the CIA uses, but they're carefully defined to abide by those principles that my colleague has spoken about that we will maintain, and it does not help to have senators claiming that unless we pass this law, we will tolerate torture. We don't, we haven't, and we won't.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, senators, we have to leave it there. Thank you.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: Thank you very much.



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