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06 October 2005

Senate Votes to Define, Limit Detainee Interrogation Process

Opponents say measure will hinder War on Terror

By Alexandra Abboud
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.S. Senate voted October 5 to define and limit techniques used by U.S. troops to interrogate suspects detained in connection with terrorism, both in the United States and abroad.

"Confusion about the rules results in abuses in the field," said Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who sponsored the amendment, and who is a former Vietnam-era prisoner of war.  "We need a clear, consistent standard," he told his colleagues as they prepared to vote on the measure.

In a 90-to-9 bipartisan vote, the Senate passed an amendment that calls for specific and uniform interrogation standards for U.S. military personnel that prohibits “cruel, inhumane or degrading” treatment of enemy combatants who are being held in U.S. facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Iraq and elsewhere as part of the global war against terrorism.  The amendment was attached to a large Senate appropriations bill funding the U.S. military. The Senate continued to work on the bill October 6.

Although the Senate overwhelmingly supported the amendment, Senate approval is only the first step in the final passage of the defense bill to which the amendment is attached. The Senate must complete action on its version of the bill. The bill also must be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.  If the president vetoes the final product, the House and Senate each would need to override the veto by a two-thirds majority for it to become law.

The White House expressed concerns that this measure would hinder the effort against terrorism.  On October 5 White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the amendment is “unnecessary and duplicative” because existing law prohibits abuse of prisoners.  McClellan indicated that President Bush would likely veto the bill if the amendment were included because it limits “the president's ability as commander-in-chief to effectively carry out the war on terrorism.”

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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