Former Senior CIA Officials Back Anti-Torture Amendment

Monisha Bansal | Correspondent | Friday, December 9, 2005

Former Senior CIA Officials Back Anti-Torture Amendment

( - Thirty-two former CIA officials, including former Director Stansfield Turner and Counterterrorism Center Director Vincent Cannistraro, are backing an anti-torture amendment that Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain has submitted to the Defense Appropriations Bill.

The group sent a letter to McCain Friday to show support for the legislation, which would "establish the Army Field Manual as the uniform standard for the interrogation of Department of Defense detainees and prohibit cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of persons in the detention of the U.S. government."

"I think it is an important voice being added to the mix as the administration is requesting exceptions, especially for the CIA," Avi Cover, senior associate at Human Rights First, told Cybercast News Service. "This is an important group opining that they don't need these sorts of exemptions."

The letter by the 32 officials stated that they were proud to have served their country and they "remain deeply committed to supporting efforts to confront the serious terrorist threats facing the nation."

They also noted that "the use of torture and other cruelty against those in U.S. custody undermines this fight.

"Such tactics fail to produce reliable information, risk corrupting the institutions that employ them, and forfeit the ideals that attract others to our nation's cause," the letter to McCain stated.

The letter also addressed the efforts by Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA director Porter Goss to exclude the CIA from the amendment.

"Those who press for more 'flexibility' to abuse prisoners have been willing to forsake both effectiveness and our values as a nation on the misguided belief that abusive treatment will produce vital intelligence," the letter stated.

While the legislation was a response to the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, many say it was especially important in light of recent findings of the existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe.

But Mark Ballesteros, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense, told Cybercast News Service that the military is "treating and will continue to treat all detained individuals humanely, and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949."

Ballesteros added, "Abuse of detainees is not tolerated. All credible allegations of detainee abuse are aggressively investigated. Individuals convicted of abuse or involved in abuse are held appropriately accountable."

The letter to McCain followed by a day the decision by Great Britain's highest court to set an international precedent by banning the use of torture. "It's a modern judgment, in December 2005, but it's steeped in the legal and moral history not just of this country, but also of the United States and international treaty obligations. We believe our colleagues in the United States who are fighting for the rule of law will take strength from the judgment." Gareth Peirce, an attorney in the British case, told the New York Times.

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