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Public Statements

National Defense Authoirzation Act of Fiscal Year 2006

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. GRAHAM. I echo the general themes of Senator McCain. This is an important event in the war on terror. He described very well that this is about us, not the terrorists. The terrorists are not having this debate in their world. There is not much debate going on about how they should behave toward innocent people, how they should behave toward people under their control. We know how they behave.

The war is about, Is that a justified way of doing business? The answer is, No.

Everyone condemns what they do, everyone who believes in freedom. This war is about two sets of values, theirs and ours. As we adjust in the war on terror, I think we have to understand that adjustment is necessary, but the adjustments cannot equate to eroding what we are fighting for. I am all for the PATRIOT Act. I think it has been very good that we adjust the way we have electronic surveillance. I think it has been very good that we allow the intelligence community and domestic law enforcement personnel to talk to each other about what is going on in the terrorist world. We are knocking some walls down with the PATRIOT Act that have made us less secure.

We are adjusting our military policy. We are adjusting our legal positions to adopt to a war that is new and different. Here is the new and different part about it: The enemy we are fighting is nontraditional in terms of the Geneva Conventions. I think the President instinctively got it right, right after 9/11. He made a declaration that al-Qaida members are not going to be treated under the Geneva Conventions, considered Geneva Conventions qualified. He was right because al-Qaida is not a standing army. It is a group of terrorists who are not fighting for a nation. They don't wear a uniform. They randomly attack civilians. To give them Geneva Conventions protection would be undermining the purpose of the Geneva Conventions that rewards people for playing fair.

The Geneva Conventions has within it reporting requirements and other devices that I think would undermine the war on terror. Some people that we catch, senior al-Qaida operatives or associates of al-Qaida, we don't want the world and their fellow terrorists to know we have them. Under the Geneva Conventions it would require reporting.

Here is what we are trying to do, with Senator McCain's amendment. Even though they are not Geneva Conventions qualified, the President said they will be treated humanely. We have had interrogation techniques in the past for enemy combatants, people who do not fall under the Geneva Conventions, but they have never been in one source document. The Army Field Manual is an attempt on our part to provide clarity to the troops.

I have gone with the chairman to Guantanamo Bay and I asked the question to the interrogators: Is there anything in the Army Field Manual that would prevent you from getting good intelligence, being involved in interrogations that would be fruitful to protect our Nation? They said no. They don't see the Army Field Manual as written or being drafted or revised as an impediment to doing their jobs.

So what is the upside? The upside is the people in the Department of Defense--who may find themselves in a situation where they will have a group of prisoners, detainees, some Geneva Conventions qualified, some not--will have a source document. The reason we are doing this amendment is right after 9/11 there was an attempt by the Department of Justice to cut corners, in my opinion, to give strained legal reasoning to the Convention on Torture, trying to define what torture is in a way that would get our own people in trouble.

The idea that you could actually break bones and that not be torture under the convention, that it would have to be a near-death experience--that gets us in a very dangerous area about physical abuse. The point we were trying to make, and the uniformed JAGs were trying to make, is when you start that reasoning, you have to understand there are other laws on the books that govern our military.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice has a whole section about what is in bounds and out of bounds when it comes to detainees and how you treat detainees. It has an assault provision, making it a crime for a military member to degrade or assault someone in our charge.

The concern of the JAGs is that this new interpretation of the Convention on Torture allowing certain activity would put military personnel in jeopardy of being court martialed because of other laws on the books. Now is the time to reconcile this. Now is the time to come up with a standard that looks at every legal source of who we are and how we behave. The Army Field Manual will be one-stop shopping.

It will have interrogation techniques classified and unclassified that will be a roadmap of how we handle people at the Department of Defense who are non-Geneva qualified. It is the best thing we can do for the troops. Everybody is for the troops. We should be for the troops. If you are for the troops, I believe the best thing you can for them is to give them clarity so they will not run afoul of our values and our laws. It is the best thing we can do to help them as they execute this war on terror when it comes to interrogating people.

The second part of Senator McCain's amendment is equally important but for a different reason. Abu Ghraib happened. Things happen on our watch in war that we are not proud of. But that happens in every war. The fact that some people make mistakes, some people commit crimes, some people go too far, is a part of war. How you deal with it is really about you.

What has made us different is that we hold our own people accountable, and we don't let the end justify the means. We have been doing that for a very long time because we are trying to set a value system in place that will be good for the world. And when we take someone who is a member of the military and prosecute them for abusing a prisoner, that is different in a lot of places in this world. If we are prosecuting people for abusing prisoners, the worst thing we could do is confuse people about what is in bounds and what is out of bounds. That is why the Army Field Manual is necessary. But the statement Senator McCain is making about treating people humanely and cruel and unusual punishment interrogation techniques being out of bounds applies to everybody in the Government.

I believe we have to make a decision soon that that is what we are going to do for many years to come. The war on terror is going to be a long, hard road. We are going to be constantly asked to adapt to win the war. The question is, Should we sometimes set aside exceptions that are totally different than the way we have lived our lives for 200 years to win this war? My answer is, Absolutely not, because this war is not about taking down a capital, sinking a navy, or capturing an army; this war is about tolerance, values, religion, and respect for human rights. This war is truly about character.

I believe with all my heart and all my soul that what happened in Abu Ghraib is an aberration in terms of the men and women in the military. It doesn't reflect on who they are and what they believe. But it has done great damage to this country. To the terrorists, they are not the audience; it is those millions of people out there who are looking at democracy, checking under the hood, and trying to figure out which way to go.

As a nation, we need to say as strongly as we can that no terrorist will have a safe haven. We are coming after you. We are going to fight you to the death. But if we capture a terrorist, we will want good information. We want to try them for their crimes, but once we have them in our charge, then it becomes about us because if you do not practice what you preach, your children will go astray if you are a parent. If you do not practice what you preach, your value set that has made you a great nation, standing out in a world in a unique way--you will tarnish who you are. The only way we are going to win this war is to have American values shine brightly. And character is about doing the right thing when nobody watches.

I am hopeful that we can have a compromise and accommodation between the executive branch and the legislative branch on this issue; that we can have a policy statement that if you are in the hands of the CIA or a non-DOD agency, you can be interrogated aggressively, but you will be treated with a value set that this country has been fighting for in the past and is fighting for now. As the President reaffirmed just days ago, no matter where the prison is, no matter whether it is a prison known or unknown, American values follow that prisoner. That is what it has to be.

Can we do better language? Maybe. I am certainly openminded to working on language that makes who we are crystal clear. But I will not entertain a retreat. I will not entertain an exception that washes away what we have been standing for and fighting for and what over 2,000 young men and women have died for.

The courts are confused. The courts are crying out for congressional involvement. The executive branch is trying to adapt. I really do believe that the best thing we could do for this President and all future Presidents is for the Congress to get into the game and be an ally on how you detain, interrogate, and prosecute enemy combatants. That is missing. We have been AWOL. It is now time for us to step up to the plate and exercise our constitutional responsibility--not to weaken the Presidency but to make the executive branch stronger in the eyes of the courts.

If you had a policy that was signed off on by the Congress, signed off on by the executive branch, I am totally convinced that the judicial side of our Government would be much more deferential. They are telling us that. What benefit would that be? We could go to the world, and this President and the next could say that America at every level of Government is united. We are going to have aggressive interrogation techniques, we are going to detain people who are enemy combatants, and we are going to take them off the battlefield. And some of them are going to stand trial for their crimes. But we are going to do it together, and we are going to do it within our values. That would be the strongest message we could extend to the world. It would be the right message to send to our own troops. If we do not get this right now, people after us are going to pay a heavy price.

I yield the floor.

http://thomas.loc.gov/

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