Senators Attack Trump’s Draft Order on Interrogation Policy

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) levelled sharp criticisms at President Donald Trump Wednesday in response to a draft of a presidential executive order authorizing a review of US interrogation practices. The draft order, obtained by the New York Times, would revoke two executive orders signed by President Barack Obama in 2009 ending a CIA program for detaining and interrogating enemy combatants overseas, limiting interrogation procedures to those contained in the Army Field Manual, and ordering the closure of the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Among other actions, the proposed executive order would specifically allow the detention of newly captured enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and would also require the President’s national security team to review the interrogation procedures in the Army Field Manual, the CIA’s use of overseas detention centers, and the use of military tribunals for trying enemy combatants. The draft does not address specific interrogation procedures and forbids “torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, as proscribed by US law.”

Warner released a statement on the draft order saying, “A ban on torture is not simply a matter of policy—it is US law. I will not accept any attempt by this administration to circumvent that policy, directly or through others.” He also said he had already spoken with newly confirmed CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis to express his opposition to the positions expressed in the draft order. “I intend to hold nominees, including Director Pompeo and Secretary Mattis, to their sworn testimony to follow the law banning the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.” McCain’s statement was similarly direct: “The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.” McCain also said the US Congress banned torture in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act and, in doing so, “reaffirmed the prohibition on torture by limiting interrogation techniques to those in the Army Field Manual.” He also said that changes to the manual are intended, by law, to ensure that interrogation procedures “do not involve the use or threat of force,” and that revisions must be “made available to the public 30 days prior to the date the revisions take effect.”