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22 December 2005

Congress Approves Ban on Torture, Inhuman Treatment of Detainees

Prohibition is included in the $453.5 billion 2006 defense spending bill

By Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.S. Congress approved a $453.5 billion 2006 defense budget December 22 that includes a measure outlawing the use of torture, or cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees being held by the U.S. military and civilian federal agencies such as the CIA.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the defense budget December 21 and the House of Representatives adopted it December 19.  The measure had to be reapproved December 22 in the House because of a single change to the defense bill by the Senate.

The defense budget also includes $50 billion for continuing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, $3.8 billion for pandemic flu preparedness and $29 billion for disaster assistance to hurricane-damaged areas in the U.S. Gulf Coast region.  Passage of the spending bill came after the Senate's rejection December 21 of a contentious amendment that would have allowed oil exploration and drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, proposed the ban on torture in both the Defense Department 2006 appropriations bill.  President Bush had opposed the amendment initially, but supported its passage after reaching an accord with McCain over language in the amendment.

The United States consistently has maintained that it does not torture detainees, enemy combatants and terrorism suspects. Current federal law bans torture worldwide by U.S. personnel.

The first part of the McCain amendment bans "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of detainees in the custody of the U.S. military and civilian agencies such as the CIA or the FBI anywhere in the world.

The second part of the amendment requires the U.S. military to use only those interrogation techniques listed in the U.S. Army Field Manual on intelligence interrogations.  It does not specify which techniques the CIA and FBI are banned from using in their interrogations.

The Army Field Manual, which McCain specified in his amendment, uses wording for the treatment of detainees that adheres to the Geneva Conventions protection for prisoners of war. 

The measure also provides for limited judicial review of appeals from detainees seeking determinations of their enemy combatant status.

Other features included in the 2006 defense budget are:

·$50 billion for continuing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The measure specifies that $39.4 billion be used for operations and maintenance and personnel costs, and $8 billion for additional purchases of equipment including heavily armored Humvees [High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles].  It also includes $500 million to train and equip the military and security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

·Increases of 10,000 personnel in the Army (to 512,400), and 1,000 personnel in the Marine Corps (to 179,000).

·$918 million for Defense Department counterdrug activities and to fight narco-terrorism; and

·An across-the-board cut of 1 percent to all nonemergency discretionary spending by the federal government, except for the Department of Veterans Affairs and combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The defense spending bill also contains $3.8 billion to help the country prepare for an influenza pandemic, such as an avian flu outbreak, with the bulk of the money, $3.3 billion, going to the Health and Human Services Department's Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.

It also provides $131.5 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development, including $75 million for child survival programs and $56 million for international disaster and famine assistance.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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