Torture Is Already Illegal – So Why "Ban" It?

The US Senate voted by a high margin to ban the use of torture on June 16. The bill is an amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense policy measure. It passed 78-21 but the entire bill currently remains in the Senate.

Leading the effort was Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona) who coauthored the bill with Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-California). The bill is a departure from the CIA’s torture program during the Bush administration. However, it is also a redundant measure: Torture is already illegal under US and international law.

Under the CIA torture program, the US government snatched over 100 people it suspected were terrorists from various countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Mauritania, and detained them in numerous secret prisons around the world. They were subjected to numerous acts of torture, such as waterboarding, sexual abuse, anal rape, stress positions, sleep deprivation, beatings and wall slamming.

While the program was ineffective in gathering useful intelligence, it was useful (indeed, its key purpose was) for exploitation: namely, to elicit false confessions that were used to justify the Iraq war and turn some detainees into informants.

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