From: Representative Rush Holt [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, October 12, 2007 12:27 PM
Subject: Email from Rep. Rush Holt
Dear Mr. Reinke :
Thank you for writing me regarding our government’s policy on so-called “military tribunals” and the related Hamdan v. Rumsfeld court case on this subject. I appreciate learning your views, and I apologize for the delay in my response.
After the Supreme Court ruled against the Bush administration’s use of so-called “military tribunals” in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case in 2006, the administration and the Congress had an opportunity to craft a detainee policy that both protected our country and the principles it stands for. Instead, the Congress passed a deeply flawed piece of legislation-the Military Commissions Act (MCA)- which I opposed.
How true we are to our ideals affects the clarity and decisiveness with which our soldiers can act, the safety of our troops, the motivation of our potential enemies, and the behavior of our actual enemies. The MCA provides protections that are vague, slippery and imprecise. It is subject to interpretation by the President, by the Secretary of Defense, by our commanders in the theaters of operation, by our troops in the field, and by our friends and enemies around the world.
We need a law on detainee treatment that does at least two things. First, i t should provide a clear set of guidelines consistent with American principles-such as in our revised Army Field Manual-that applies to all U.S. Government personnel (including contractors and intelligence agents ) on how to treat prisoners in ways that preserve our principles. That is why I have become a co-sponsor of the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 (H.R. 1415) and the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 (H.R. 1416). If enacted, these bills would undo the most pernicious and c onstitutionally offensive provisions of the MCA, including the denial of habeus corpus rights to detainees.
Second, any changes to our laws on detainee treatment should include verification mechanisms to monitor how prisoners and detainees are treated. One of those mechanisms is already in use by law enforcement organizations across the country: the videotaping of interrogations.
Videotaping has proven to be extremely effective at preventing not just abuse of detainees but also false allegations of abuse by detainees against their interrogators. The practice aids in interrogation (by allowing linguists and others to review the record) , and it protects all of us-the enforcers, the prosecutors, and the defendants. By not including such a provision in the MCA , the drafters missed a real opportunity to ensure that we prevent serious problems in the future.
In May 2007, I offered an amendment to the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act that would have mandated the videotaping of detainee interrogations after the detainee had been held for seven days or had been transferred to a permanent detention facility. While my amendment did not pass, it garnered 199 bipartisan votes and demonstrated that a near-majority of my colleagues recognize the value of videorecording of interrogations.
Indeed, it may interest you to know that the day after the House voted down my amendment, the Defense Department released a previously classified Inspector General report on detainee treatment in Iraq that was originally sent to the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in August 2006. While portions of this 131 page report remain classified, the conclusions are not:
“(U) Allegations of detainee abuse were not consistently reported, investigated, or managed in an effective, systematic, and timely manner..no single entity within any level of command was aware of the scope and breadth of detainee abuse. policy for and oversight of interrogation procedures were ineffective. As a result, interrogation techniques and procedures used exceeded the limits established in the Army Field Manual 34-52, “Intelligence Interrogation,” September 28, 1992.” ( Report No. 06-INTEL-10 , Review of DoD -Directed Investigations of Detainee Abuse (U), August 25, 2006, p. ii.)
You can view the full report at the following URL:
http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/abus e .pdf , or ask me to mail you a copy.
I will continue to press for mandated video recording of detainee interrogations because I believe doing so would provide critical safeguards for all involved in the process.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Member of Congress
# # # # #