National Security Brief: Top Senate Democrat Questions Whether Gitmo Force-Feeding Is Torture

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The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday questioned whether the practice of force-feeding detainees at Guantanamo Bay amounts to torture.

“[W]e must still ask ourselves whether force-feeding hunger striking prisoners at Guantánamo — many of whom have never been convicted of any crime and yet have no hope of release, or long periods of solitary confinement which is routinely used in our prisons, violate the Convention [Against Torture], not to mention our own Constitution,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said at an anti-torture event in Washington, DC, according to the Hill.

Despite President Obama’s recent pledge to renew efforts to close Gitmo, the latest hunger strike that began there in February continues unabated as the military continues to report that most of the 166 detainees are refusing food and nearly 50 are being force-fed via a tube through the nasal cavity, through the esophagus and into the stomach.

Experts have also suggested that this practice is torture, have condemned it and called on the United States to stop force-feeding Gitmo detainees. “If it’s perceived as torture or inhuman treatment — and it’s the case, it’s painful — then it is prohibited by international law,” a U.N. human rights spokesperson said back in May.

Detainees have described the “painful” process of tube force-feeding, reportedly calling it “agony” and akin to having a razor blade pulled down your throat.

“What sets the United States apart is what we stand for — our values, the example we set. After 9/11, we saw how easily those values can be sacrificed by the very people who have a responsibility to protect them,” Leahy said on Wednesday, “Suddenly torture was treated as a necessity, the lesser of evils, and those who condemned it were accused of being unpatriotic.”

In other news:

  • After the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the Clinton-era law that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, the Pentagon said it would immediately begin the process that will lead to providing benefits to the spouses of military servicemembers in same-sex marriages.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports: The Central Intelligence Agency has begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month, expanding U.S. support of moderate forces battling President Bashar al-Assad, according to diplomats and U.S. officials briefed on the plans.
  • Edward Snowden, the man allegedly responsible for leaking secret details of the NSA’s surveillance programs, reportedly said in 2009 that those who leaked information about a covert U.S. program to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program should be shot. “They’re reporting classified [expletive],” Snowden wrote. “You don’t put that [expletive] in the NEWSPAPER.”
  • The New York Times reports: The chief Palestinian negotiator condemned Israel on Thursday for moving closer to construction of 69 apartments in a Jewish neighborhood on territory seized in the 1967 war even as Secretary of State John Kerry was to arrive for a fifth round of meetings in his intensive push to revive Middle East peace talks.