House Dems Introduce Anti-Torture Bill

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On the heels of today’s torture hearings in a House Judiciary subcommittee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the subcommittee chairman, and Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) have introduced a bill to force all American interrogators to conform to the Geneva Conventions-compliant standards of the Army Field Manual on Interrogation (pdf). That would mean no waterboarding, no “cold cells,” no stress positions — none of that stuff that Malcolm Nance and Steve Kleinman testified doesn’t work anyway.

Under current law — Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) 2005 Detainee Treatment Act — torture is (once again) prohibited, but the law’s provisions don’t apply outside the U.S. military. The CIA still, in principle, can employ “enhanced interrogation” techniques, waterboarding being among the most infamous. In September, CIA Director Mike Hayden resisted bringing CIA interrogations in line with the Army Field Manual, telling the Council on Foreign Relations, “I don’t know of anyone who has looked at the Army Field Manual who could make the claim that what’s contained in there exhausts the universe of lawful interrogation techniques consistent with the Geneva Convention.” Michael Mukasey echoed that sentiment during his confirmation hearings.

The Nadler-Delahunt bill, called the American Anti-Torture Act of 2007, would indeed make the field manual exhaustive of that “universe of lawful interrogation techniques.”In a statement, Delahunt said, “The use of torture and so-called ‘enhanced’ interrogation — such as waterboarding — contradicts our commitment to the rule of law and basic human decency.” Their bill complements a Senate measure sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE).

Of course, even if the bills pass, and for some reason President Bush signs them, Bush could easily attach a signing statement saying he’ll ignore them when he wants to, as he did with the McCain torture bill.