The Senate passed a measure Tuesday aimed at ensuring that the United States never tortures detainees again.
The Senate voted 78 to 21 to approve a defense bill amendment that bans torture. It was introduced by Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
The amendment bolsters current law and makes the U.S. Army Field Manual on interrogations the standard for all interrogations conducted by the U.S. government. It also gives the International Committee of the Red Cross access to every detainee held by the U.S.
Feinstein said the amendment was important because the executive order prohibiting torture could be lifted by a future president. Though President Barack Obama banned the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, which were used during George W. Bush’s administration, soon after he took office, Feinstein said that the executive order would be guaranteed only "for as long as a future president agrees to leave them in place."
"I ask my colleagues to support this amendment, and by doing so we can recommit ourselves to the fundamental precept that the U.S. does not torture — without exception and without equivocation — and ensure that the mistakes of our past are never again repeated in the future," she said.
Former New York Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, a co-author of “Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law, Plotted to Avoid Prosecution — and What We Can Do About It,” said the amendment is "not a silver bullet" and was "flawed" because it is tied to the Army Field Manual.
"That manual now permits sleep deprivation, stress positions and other interrogation techniques that could amount to torture. Still, if finally enacted, the amendment would send an important signal about congressional opposition to torture," she said in an email to Al Jazeera.
But Holtzman lamented the "failure" of the measure to "hold top Bush administration officials accountable."
The vote comes just months after the Senate Intelligence Committee released findings of a classified investigation that said the CIA's brutal interrogations of detainees after Sept. 11, 2001, were harsher than previously thought.
In a statement, McCain, who faced torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said, "This amendment provides greater assurances that never again will the United States follow that dark path of sacrificing our values for our short-term security needs."
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press