DEFICIT REDUCTION ACT OF 2005--CONFERENCE REPORT -- (Senate - December 20, 2005)
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Mr. KERRY. I thank the Chair, and I thank the managers.
CLANDESTINE PRISON FACILITIES
Mr. President, more than a month ago we learned of the possible existence of clandestine prison facilities operated around the world by the Central Intelligence Agency. This revelation caused serious problems with some of our most important allies in the war on terror, and it raised important questions about the Congress's ability and willingness to perform oversight.
Before the Thanksgiving break, the Senate came together in a bipartisan fashion to pass an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act which would have required a report on alleged clandestine detention facilities operated by our own Government. I was glad to be able to work with Senator Roberts and Senator Rockefeller to craft language that would make it possible for Congress to do this job. It was a successful effort. It was a remarkably bipartisan effort.
On November 10, 2005, the Senate voted 82 to 9 for the amendment we worked out. That amendment required the Director of National Intelligence to provide a classified report to the members of the Intelligence Committees of both the House and the Senate which would set forth basic information, including the location and size of such facilities, the number of detainees held, and the explanation of what we intend to do with those detainees. For example, will they face military tribunals? What will be the consequences and manner of their detention?
Finally, consistent with the McCain antitorture amendment, my amendment would require a description of the interrogation procedures used on detainees in such facilities and a determination of whether those procedures were in compliance with America's obligations under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. The House endorsed that amendment with a bipartisan vote just last week.
Now, not surprisingly, given that this was an intelligence provision on a DOD bill, the amendment to the Defense authorization bill fell out in the conference--not on the merits, on procedure. We anticipated that, and we worked with the Intelligence Committee in order to attach it to the intelligence authorization bill.
Here we are, and the intelligence authorization bill is stalled in the Senate. This important amendment is in limbo because an extreme minority objects to an amendment with strong bipartisan support from Members in both Chambers of the Congress. More than 80 Senators voted for this amendment about a month ago. The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence supports it. The vice chairman supports it. But the bill and this amendment will not move.
All here believe in what we are trying to do to win the war on terror. Everyone here accepts this is a war we need to win. We do not underestimate, any of us, the depravity and viciousness of our enemies or of what is at stake. We have absolute confidence in the desire and the determination of the American people to join in doing anything necessary in order to win. But we also believe the informed consent of the American public is crucial to that success.
As I said more than a month ago when we first debated this issue, in an issue as sensitive as this, one which challenges the basic value systems by which we operate, the informed consent that allows you to do what you need to do will only come through the Congress itself, through our active understanding and involvement in these issues. That requires information. It requires cooperation from the administration so we in Congress can provide effective and informed oversight.
I find it very difficult to understand why anyone would hold up legislation as important as the Intelligence Authorization Act, to object to an amendment that has such strong bipartisan support in the Senate, to delay an amendment that does not pass any judgment on the merits or the value of those facilities but simply informs the Senate about where, what, and how those facilities may or may not be operated.
To frustrate an effort that seeks only to help Congress have information with which to do its job seems to be an extreme position, indeed. In this case, our job is oversight. Our job is to make sure we are not violating laws. Our job is to make sure we are living up to our standards and our values.
I thank Senator Roberts, and I thank Senator Rockefeller for their hard work and their diligence on this issue. I hope we can find a resolution and pass the Intelligence Authorization Act this week. This is an important bill. At a time when a lot of the debate in the Senate is involved with matters of urgency for troops and urgency for national security, and where the President is holding press conferences and attacking individual Senators for their interference in the war on terror, and so on and so forth, it seems to me to not move forward on the intelligence authorization bill is to, in a concrete way, be standing in the way of doing the very things the President is talking about. I hope we can find a way to move that.