With Congress on the verge of passing the sweeping McCain amendment, the Bush administration has taken its drive to permit torture to new depths.
The basis of the McCain amendment is establishing the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation as the uniform standard for interrogation. That manual explicitly prohibits the use of so-called “coercive interrogation techniques.” As former Army interrogator Peter Bauer has written, “the standard interrogation techniques found in the US Army Field Manual 34–52 were far more effective than such abusive behavior as stress positions, sensory deprivation, and humiliation. We obtained more information — and more reliable information — with our basic skills than we did with even days of harsh treatment.”
Realizing this, the Pentagon has one-upped McCain, and simply rewritten the manual:
The Army has approved a new, classified set of interrogation methods that may complicate negotiations over legislation proposed by Senator John McCain to bar cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees in American custody, military officials said Tuesday.
The techniques are included in a 10-page classified addendum to a new Army field manual that was forwarded this week to Stephen A. Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence policy, for final approval, they said.
The addendum provides dozens of examples and goes into exacting detail on what procedures may or may not be used, and in what circumstances. Army interrogators have never had a set of such specific guidelines that would help teach them how to walk right up to the line between legal and illegal interrogations.
The political fall-out from this move is sure to be significant. The New York Times notes that McCain will likely be “furious” with the changes, and an unnamed Pentagon official is quoted, “This is a stick in McCain’s eye. It goes right up to the edge. He’s not going to be comfortable with this.”
The idea that we have a “Vice President for Torture” now appears quaint. What we really have is an entire administration, openly and unapologetically for torture.