Earlier this month, Reuters reported on Majid Khan’s account of torture at the CIA black site where he was held. Khan confessed to working with al Qaeda and faces up to 19 years in prison — if he serves as a government witness. Khan alleged that he was videotaped naked and that interrogators touched his “private parts,” among other horrifying things.
Today, the Huffington Post reported that similar accounts could be forthcoming; after the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture was released last year, the accounts of detainees are no longer considered classified in all circumstances — although revealing any locations where alleged torture took place is still prohibited.
The lawyers working with detainees at Guantánamo aren’t positive that the new rules will be revolutionary. One attorney told the Huffington Post, “It used to be if a client said he wanted a cheese sandwich for lunch, technically that was classified. Now at least you’re not dealing with that level of absurdity, but I don’t think we have anything approaching real declassification down there.”
Meanwhile, a few senators are trying to ban torture once and for all. Senators John McCain and Dianne Feinstein introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act — a legislative extension of the executive order President Obama made at the beginning of his presidency — that would completely ban “waterboarding; forcing a detainee to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; placing hoods or sacks over the head of a detainee or using duct tape over the eyes; applying beatings, electric shock, burns or other forms of physical pain; using military working dogs; inducing hypothermia or heat injury; conducting mock executions; and depriving the detainee of necessary food, water or medical care.” Otherwise known as things that you would have hoped Congress had banned already.
Experts say that the Army Field Manual, which guides McCain and Feinstein’s list of interrogation techniques to be banned, needs to be reconsidered, too, according to Newsweek. Things that interrogators are still allowed to do — like belittling prisoners — don’t have much of a quantifiable success record and should maybe be thrown out. The researchers agree with the amendment sponsors, however, in believing that getting Congress involved in banning these practices “is the single most important step we must take.”
It’s not clear when the amendment might get a vote, and the White House has threatened to veto the bill anyway, for other reasons. The Obama administration disapproves of the fact that sequestration-level defense spending is still in place. McCain in turn has disapproved of the White House’s disapproval.
Over at the Department of Defense, discussions about closing Guantánamo are ongoing. Defense Secretary Ashton Carton noted that “it’s important to see if we can find a way forward from this that is widely shared enough that we can actually get it done.” In other words, closing the military prison is still impeded by the same forces that have kept it open all these years.