U.S. Senate passes ban on torture

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (C) joins Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R) and other members of the Republican leadership to make comments on military authorization legislation to reporters after the weekly Senate Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to ban the use of torture, a landmark vote intended to bar any further use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees and put into law an executive order President Barack Obama signed in 2009.

The Senate voted 78-21 for the amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill offered by Republican Senator John McCain and Democrat Dianne Feinstein.

Some 32 Republicans joined every member of the Democratic caucus to back the legislation. All 21 no votes were from Republicans.

“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,” said McCain, who was tortured in the 1960s as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and has worked for years to end the practice.

Feinstein led a years-long Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of the CIA’s use of waterboarding, rectal feeding and other brutal techniques on foreign terrorism suspects in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

That report was released six months ago, after a bitter fight between Feinstein and other Democrats and Republicans who accused Democrats of pursuing the issue because the interrogations in question had taken place under Republican President George W. Bush.

The amendment will not become law until the defense bill passes both the Senate and House of Representatives, and the House would have to back the measure. If it passes, it would make it much more difficult for a future president to reinstate the use of the degrading methods.

The amendment restricts interrogation techniques for all U.S. entities to what is included in the U.S. Army Field Manual and requires access for the International Community of the Red Cross to detainees in U.S. government custody.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio