Obama planning to end harsh interrogations?

January 17, 2009

News reports indicate that President-elect Barack Obama is planning to end harsh interrogations of detainees by directing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to adhere to the U.S. Army Field Manual for interviewing suspects.  If today’s reports are correct, Obama believes that returning the United States to the rule of law is paramount for his administration. It is vital that there be a single standard for all interrogations for all agents and forces of the U.S. government.

But there are also worrying signs that the administration is thinking of leaving a loophole for special techniques for the CIA. The military is on the frontlines dealing with insurgents and terrorism suspects everyday and has historically adhered to, respected and championed the Geneva Conventions. The argument that the CIA needs additional techniques, tools or methods is absurd and, even more importantly, fundamentally dangerous to our national security. Former FBI agents and among the best counterterrorism interrogators have denounced this false choice for what it is, a road to nowhere.  Or at best a confusing maze of contradictory standards ripe for abuse which we leave our own forces on the frontlines and yet fail to give them the clear guidance that they deserve.

Our security in dealing with insurgents or terrorists does not stem from the barrel of a gun, but from our own conviction and the faith we impart in American values and the strength of our democracy. The difference between winning and losing the fight with terrorists is the difference between our values and theirs, how we treat captured personnel and how they treated Neil Roberts. Every time we cross that line we diminish ourselves, our values and our chance of victory.

Amnesty International calls on the new administration to categorically reject the notion that any additional special techniques or methods beyond the Army Field Manual are needed. Torture or abuses in any form are neither acceptable nor necessary in protecting the United States.