Top Senate Republican: Torture ban is settled law

Top Senate Republican: Torture ban is settled law
PHILADELPHIA — Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight MORE (S.D.) on Wednesday said Congress will likely oppose any attempts to allow U.S. interrogators to use torture against suspected terrorists.
Asked about reports that President Trump will lift the ban on CIA “black site” prisons, where so-called enhanced interrogation techniques have been used on suspects in the past, Thune said Congress has already made clear its disapproval of torture.
“Those issues are settled law. Congress has spoken,” Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican, told reporters.
“With respect to torture, that’s banned. The Army Field Manual makes that very clear and the law now is tied to the Army Field Manual. We view that to be a matter of settled law,” he added.
Thune and House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersDemocrats to target Section 230 in Haugen hearing Washington redistricting panel reaches late agreement on new lines McMorris Rodgers worried broadband funding will miss mark without new maps MORE (Wash.) spoke to reporters at the annual joint Senate-House Republican retreat in Philadelphia to emphasize the party’s unity on issues such as repealing ObamaCare and reforming the tax code.
They were barraged by questions about reports that Trump is preparing an executive order that would allow U.S. intelligence officials to again operate black sites overseas, where past prisoners have been subjected to harsh interrogation techniques and denied due process.
The questions appeared to catch Thune and McMorris Rodgers somewhat by surprise.
“I’m not familiar exactly with what’s coming out today,” Thune said.
He noted that many members of Congress have already expressed their disapproval of torture by passing the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, which bars any person in custody of the Department of Defense from being subjected to any interrogation technique not authorized by the Army Field Manual.
The manual has prohibited torture since its introduction in 1956.
Trump promised during the campaign to again allow waterboarding — a controversial tactic used under President George W. Bush — to extract information from suspected terrorists. Critics argue it's a form of torture.
Trump reiterated his stance at a post-election rally in Ohio, where he told a cheering crowd: "Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would — in a heartbeat."
When a reporter pointed out to Thune that Trump could circumvent the 2005 law by using his executive authority to amend the manual, Thune said lawmakers would likely push back.
“I think you’ll have a lot of members of Congress who will weigh in on this,” he said. “This is a debate that we’ve had. We believe it’s settled law. The Army Field Manual speaks to this issue. I don’t anticipate that will change.”