Congress on the move to legalize torture

Demonstrators from the group "World Can't Wait" hold a mock waterboarding torture of a prisioner in Times Square (AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary)
Yearning for the George W Bush administration of yesteryear and the inhuman torture and interrogations that was commonplace in American-run prisons? Needn’t you worry! Congress hears your cries.

Kelly Ayotte, a freshman Republican senator from New Hampshire, has proposed legislation that would repeal current laws that make harsh torture techniques illegal, a move that the American Civil Liberties Union says would "dangerously roll back" restrictions that Congress approved in 2005’s McCain Anti-Torture Amendment.

Ayotte’s amendment, snuck into the Defense Authorization bill that will soon go up for vote, would cancel in-part both the 2005 legislation and the 2009 Executive Order issued by President Obama that allowed only “lawful” interrogations.

Additionally, officials would draft a list of top-secret techniques that would be used to interrogate suspected terrorists and war criminals.

"Terrorists shouldn't be able to view all of our interrogation practices online, and the measure I introduced fixes that glaring flaw," says the senator.

In opposition to the proposal, the ACLU and 30 other organizations have sent a letter to the Senate urging them to strike Ayotte’s amendment.

We “cannot afford to return to practices that degraded our country in the eyes of the general public,” reads the letter, dated November 22, 2011. Amendment 1068 offered by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) threatens to revive the use of torture and other cruelty in US interrogations, flying in the face of American values and US legal obligations as well as obstructing US military missions and endangering troops deployed abroad.”

The ACLU reminds lawmakers of the photos from the Abu Gharib that caused international outrage over America’s torture and interrogation abuses, which it says cost the United States “hearts and minds that are critical to US counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts.” That scandal led in part to the Detainee Treatment Act and struck controversial interrogation techniques from the books. Reinstating those practices would not only challenge the overwhelming decision that lawmakers made in the legislation, but bring back outrageous torture techniques that have caused not just outrage, but death. From an international standpoint, writes the ACLU, the installation of Ayotte’s amendment could once against tarnish “the international standing of the United States,” as did the revelations out of Abu Gharib.

While the amendment has a worthy opponent in the ACLU, contenders for the Republican Party’s nomination for the presidency have also gone on the record as of late to say that current torture policies are too lax. Michele Bachmann stated recently that the “CIA has no ability to have any form of interrogation for terrorists,” and declared that President Obama had forfeited its ability to torture alleged criminals by siding with the ACLU. Texas Governor Rick Perry has added that the Obama administration has been an “absolute failure” at expanding intelligence gathering amongst the military and CIA.

In addition to the ACLU, signees of the plea include Human Rights USA, Amnesty International USA and the International justice Network. On their website, the Union calls Congress’ consideration of the amendment “unthinkable” and has offered a petition for citizens to sign in objection to the legislation.