[Congressional Record: February 25, 2010 (House)]
[Page H908]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the 
gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Burton) is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BURTON of Indiana. Mr. Speaker, sometimes I just do not 
understand this place. We are fighting people who will cut off your 
head, who will blow up a building and kill 3,000 people with an 
airplane. They will do anything they can to destroy America. Yet, when 
we pass an intelligence bill, we want to do everything we can to treat 
them with kid gloves. It just doesn't make any sense to me. The bill we 
are going to be voting on tomorrow in the manager's amendment says 
  It would define ``cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment'' in 
intelligence interrogations, and it would provide a penalty of up to 15 
years in prison for the use of this treatment during an interrogation.
  They're talking about our CIA people who are interrogating a 
terrorist--an al Qaeda terrorist, a Taliban terrorist or somebody who 
is threatening the security of the United States. I want to read that 
  It would define ``cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment'' in 
intelligence interrogations, and it would provide a penalty of up to 15 
years in prison for the use of this treatment during an interrogation.
  Now, what intelligence agent in his right mind would go that extra 
mile to get information from a terrorist who had information about 
flying a plane into a building to kill a couple of thousand people? 
Because, if he used anything that didn't fit within this category, he 
could be jailed. He could be prosecuted and could go to jail for 15 
years. That's insane.
  Then it goes on to say that it would also provide a criminal penalty 
of up to 5 years in jail for medical professionals who enable such 
  Look, I don't believe in torture, and I don't believe in mistreating 
human beings, but when you're talking about the security of the United 
States of America, that's number one. That is number one. When we take 
our oath of office here, we swear to uphold and defend the Constitution 
against all enemies, foreign and domestic. If these terrorists are 
enemies of the United States, we need to do whatever we can to make 
sure that we get information from them to protect this country. The 
people who are doing that job frontline are the FBI, the CIA, the DIA, 
and all of our intelligence agencies. To hamstring them makes no sense 
to me whatsoever.
  My liberal colleagues on the other side want to pat them on the head 
and give them Jell-O for lunch and do all the other crazy things that 
you should do. They're living better down at Guantanamo than the people 
in our prisons here in the United States--Americans. Yet we want to 
make sure that we treat them with kid gloves.
  Right now, we have three Navy SEALs who are going to be court-
martialed because they captured an al Qaeda terrorist in Fallujah, in 
Iraq, a terrorist who dragged four American contractors through the 
streets, burned their bodies, tortured them, and hung them from a 
bridge. In addition to that, he cut the head off of Daniel Pearl, a 
newsman, and he put his head on a pike.
  You know, that guy, I'm sure, deserves a little extra sweet 
treatment, but I don't think so. Because he said he was hit in the 
mouth, had a bloody lip and got hit in the stomach, the three Navy 
SEALs who captured him are being court-martialed.
  It makes no sense. This place is going nuts. We ought to be doing 
everything we can to defend and protect this country, and that means 
doing whatever is necessary, with certain limits, to extract any 
information we can from a terrorist. For us to put language in there 
like we're going to give a 15-year penalty in prison for a CIA agent 
who goes a little beyond by using cruel, inhuman, or degrading 
treatment--and, boy, I don't know how you'd define that--what CIA agent 
is going to want to take that risk?
  I just don't understand it, Mr. Speaker. We are in a war against 
people who want to destroy us and our way of life. They are willing to 
do all kinds of things--fly planes into buildings, do everything else, 
cut off heads, torture people. Yet we want to make sure we treat them 
with kid gloves. It makes absolutely no sense, and I will not vote for 
that bill tomorrow or anything that looks like it.


[Congressional Record: February 25, 2010 (House)]
[Page H909-H910]                       

                         INTERROGATION TACTICS

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the 
gentleman from Washington (Mr. McDermott) is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, earlier today we heard some pretty 
imaginative accusations from my Republican colleagues when they were 
talking about an amendment I offered to the Intelligence Authorization 
Act. While my amendment is being removed from the manager's amendment 
up in the Rules Committee, I want to take this opportunity to clear up 
a few things.
  When President Obama took office last year, one of his first 
Executive orders was to extend the Army field manual's guidelines on 
interrogation tactics. Those guidelines prohibit interrogators in all 
Federal agencies from using brutal interrogations in any circumstance. 
That is the law today.
  So to get the facts straight, brutal interrogations are illegal right 
now. But this Executive order doesn't completely solve the problem. The 
President can't include criminal penalties in Executive orders, and 
current U.S. law doesn't outline what constitutes a brutal 
  My amendment would have expanded upon the President's Executive order 
to clearly define what constitutes a cruel, inhuman, or degrading 
interrogation so that it is unmistakable what kinds of techniques are 
unacceptable. It also creates criminal penalties for those who use 
those kinds of interrogations. And to be clear, I didn't invent

[[Page H910]]

this concept myself. The amendment was based on the Army field manual 
definition of acceptable and unacceptable interrogation tactics, which, 
as Senator John McCain has said, is effective 99.9 percent of the time. 
One of the most important things to remember about these kinds of 
interrogations is that they simply don't work.
  Brutal interrogations are not an effective tool to collect 
information, and what's worse, they actually may produce unreliable 
information. As former CIA official Bob Baer has said, ``What happens 
when you torture people is they figure out what you want to hear and 
they tell you that.''
  An endless string of studies have shown us that when people's minds 
or bodies are subjected to the kind of trauma these brutal 
interrogations entail, their brains don't function properly. For 
example, during training exercises, American special operative soldiers 
have had difficulty remembering information after they'd been put 
through food or sleep deprivation.
  Why are the Republicans defending a tactic we know doesn't work? 
Interrogations like those hurt our reputation abroad. The world was 
horrified when they saw what American soldiers were doing at Abu 
Ghraib. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell has said, ``People 
are now starting to question whether we're following our own high 
  Brutality like that hurts our credibility and undercuts our 
reputation in the global community.
  I'm a veteran. I wear my Vietnam pin well and proudly. I served in 
the Navy. I'm passionate about protecting this country and keeping our 
soldiers safe. More than anything, this amendment was designed to 
protect them.
  Several soldiers have done a far better job than I can in explaining 
why we need laws like this. Retired Colonel Stuart Herrington said that 
cruelty in interrogations ``endangers our soldiers on the battlefield 
by encouraging reciprocity.'' The golden rule, if you will.
  Retired admiral John Huston has said, ``Getting our interrogation 
policies back on track will preserve our standing to fight for humane 
treatment of American soldiers who are captured.''
  I couldn't agree more. Without clear laws that define acceptable and 
unacceptable interrogation practices, including criminal consequences 
for violating those laws, we are putting more Americans at risk of 
being treated with the same brutality.
  Just last week the two former Justice Department attorneys who 
crafted the legal justification for the use of brutal interrogations 
got off scot free. The Justice Department absolved them of their 
wrongdoing and only said they had ``exercised poor judgment'' and 
hadn't broken the law. They took advantage of a gap in our current law 
and provided legal cover for abuse during interrogations. My amendment 
would have ensured this kind of legal maneuvering never happens again.
  As the President said when he issued his Executive order last year, 
``We are willing to observe core standards of conduct not just when 
it's easy, but also when it's hard.''