The House approved an intelligence agency bill Friday after Democratic leaders hastily removed a provision that would have imposed prison sentences for personnel using "cruel, inhuman and degrading" interrogation techniques.Yet another reason why there needs to be dissent in this country.
The controversial provision would have subjected intelligence officers to up to 15 years in prison for interrogations that violate existing anti-torture laws, including the use of extreme temperatures, acts causing sexual humiliation or depriving a prisoner of food, sleep or medical care.
Republicans strongly protested the measure when the bill came to the floor Thursday, forcing Democrats to pull the bill in order to avoid an unwanted debate on torture that could threaten passage of the legislation. It was reintroduced Friday with the interrogation provision removed.
The bill, passed 235-168, sets policy and classified funding levels for 16 federal intelligence agencies. The Senate has passed its own version, and differences must be worked out.
The torture provision, introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., defined cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees and provided a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for using such techniques during an interrogation. It also said medical professionals who enable the use of improper treatment could face up to five years in prison.
McDermott said President Barack Obama last year extended the Army field manual's guidelines on interrogation tactics and his amendment was intended to expand on the president's order "to clearly define what constitutes a cruel, inhuman or degrading interrogation so that it is unmistakable what kinds of techniques are unacceptable."
But Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, top Republican on the intelligence committee, countered that the "annual intelligence bill should be about protecting and defending our nation, not targeting those we ask to do that deed and giving greater protections to terrorists."