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Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 Veto Message From the President of the United States

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 Veto Message From the President of the United States

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Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, the fight against terror is, at one level, a military struggle, but it is also, at its roots, a battle over hearts and minds.

On Sunday, we suffered a major setback in that battle when the President of the United States vetoed legislation that would unequivocally state to the world that we do not condone torture in any form, in any place, under any circumstance. Instead, by appearing to abandon the rule of law by appearing to step away from the Geneva Conventions, by failing to renounce the use of torture in the clearest of terms, we are only undermining our standing in the world and endangering the lives of our very own men and women.

When the Attorney General of the United States recently testified before the Judiciary Committee, he could not tell us if and when waterboarding constituted torture. He even suggested that a determination whether something constitutes torture depends on who is being subjected to the technique and the desirability of the information that is being sought. His testimony was murky. It was ambiguous. It failed to establish any bright line for our personnel or for the rest of the world. He could only say that if it were done to him, well, then that would be torture.

Instead, the bright line standard, if there was one to be found in his testimony, and the one that he asked us to hold up to the rest of the world, was whether or not a harsh interrogation technique is part of a program authorized by an attorney in the obscure Office of Legal Counsel. I am deeply concerned about what this says to our own personnel and about what it says to the rest of the world.

This is, indeed, no intangible loss, for the effects of this failure of moral leadership may tragically be visited on those brave men and women serving in our Armed Forces.

Who among us can fail to recall the opening ways of the Iraq war when American troops had been captured and were paraded in front of the cameras? We were disgusted with their treatment, and rightfully so. If we hesitate, equivocate, or otherwise fail to ban the use of waterboarding, how can we have any confidence that when American troops are captured they will not be subjected to this form of torture? How can we make the case that other nations or other enemies must not torture because we don't torture? How can we win the battle for hearts and minds if we surrender our most powerful weapon, the power of our good example?

Mr. Speaker, I urge the override of the President's veto.

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