Friday, 19 July 2024

Thompson sponsors bill to make waterboarding illegal

A day after the Senate passed an intelligence bill that included a stand on the interrogation technique of waterboarding, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson and a colleague introduced another bill in the House of Representatives that would specifically outlaw the practice.

On Thursday Thompson (D-St. Helena) – who chairs the Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis and Counterintelligence Subcommittee – joined with Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alton), chair of the Intelligence Community Management Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to introduce the bill, which bans the US government's use of waterboarding.

The Senate on Wednesday had passed the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 on a 51 to 45 vote. The bill included a provision banning the use of waterboarding.

The new bill by introduced by Thompson and Eshoo takes a harder line on waterboarding, according to Thompson's Washington spokesperson, Anne Warden.

She explained that the new bill explicitly bans waterboarding, and amends criminal code to make it illegal.

Warden reported that the Army Field Manual specifically authorizes 19 interrogation techniques and specifically prohibits eight techniques – including waterboarding, forced nudity, denial of food and water, and beatings.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, Thompson and Eshoo said, “It’s time to make a clear statement for the world to hear and understand, and for the Bush Administration to obey: Waterboarding is torture and Americans will not participate in it.”

Thompson and Eshoo said their bill is meant to ban waterboarding once and for all, making it clear that it's a form of torture and cannot be used by any US government entity, including the CIA.

In addition, anyone using waterboarding in the future would subsequently be subject to criminal prosecution, according to the measure.

They said that it's time for Congress to step in because the Bush Administration has refused to take waterboarding “off the table permanently.”

“As General David Petraeus stated: ‘What sets us apart from our enemies ... is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings,'” Thompson and Eshoo stated.

They also quoted presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, himself a torture victim during Vietnam, as saying, “People who have worn the uniform and had the experience know that this is a terrible and odious practice and should never be condoned in the U.S. We are a better nation than that.”

Criminalizing waterboarding isn't a new practice, the two members of Congress reported.

They cited a 1947 prosecution of a Japanese military officer for carrying out a form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian during World War II. The man was convicted and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

In addition, they stated that the US military has prosecuted American military personnel for subjecting prisoners to waterboarding, including sentencing a US Army major to 10 years at hard labor for subjecting an insurgent to waterboarding in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War.

“For those who might say that this bill will lead to the prosecution of officers who relied on the guidance of the Justice Department, we note that our bill is prospective,” they stated. “Now, from this day forward, let the world know that the United States of America will practice what it has always been revered for: Dignity, democracy and the rule of law.”

Thompson and Eshoo's bill is likely to face tough opposition.

The White House already has threatened to veto the bill passed by the Senate Wednesday over the waterboarding ban. McCain himself also voted no on that bill, according to Congressional voting records.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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