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Public Statements

Veterans Day 2005

Location: Washington, DC

VETERANS DAY 2005 -- (Senate - November 10, 2005)


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, in recent weeks the American people and Members of the Senate have heard allegations about the existence of secret prison facilities operated by the U.S. Government in various countries around the world.

Now, I know many of my colleagues take this matter very seriously. The Central Intelligence Agency has reportedly requested a Justice Department investigation of how classified intelligence information made its way into print. Clearly, the revelation of the potential of these programs is a serious national security matter. It is one we can all agree on, no matter where we sit.

No one in this Chamber underestimates the seriousness of the war on radical Islamic terrorists. It is a war we have to win, we must win. And no one underestimates the depravity and the viciousness of our enemies. We do not need to look any further than the bombings last night in Jordan to once again be reminded of the kind of enemy we face--an enemy willing to always target the innocent. We know that success in any war requires the informed consent of the American people. And in an issue as sensitive as this, that informed consent can only be derived from the Congress's full and appropriate understanding and involvement in these issues. That in and of itself requires information and cooperation from the administration so we in Congress can provide effective and informed oversight. That begins by knowing what the money we authorize and appropriate is being used to do. The American people demand no less than that. The fact is, we are not aware; we are not as a Congress performing that proper oversight. The vast majority of us first heard about the possibility of clandestine detention facilities in the Washington Post last Wednesday.

Since then, we have heard that this may have been discussed by Vice President Cheney in a meeting with the Republican caucus. That obviously comes from statements by people at the caucus made publicly. If, as has been reported by Senator Lott, members of the Republican caucus can hear about these facilities from the Vice President of the United States, then the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ought to be able to receive a full accounting.

So the amendment I offer today seeks to simply assert, appropriately, congressional oversight in this matter by requiring two classified reports--one by the Secretary of Defense and one by the Director of National Intelligence--to the appropriate committees, detailing the involvement of the Department of Defense and the intelligence community in these activities if, indeed, there is any.

Not later than 60 days after enactment, the Secretary of Defense will provide a classified report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees of any knowledge or participation in the operation of clandestine facilities by the Department of Defense, including support provided by the Department of Defense to any other part of the U.S. Government or foreign government. The Secretary of Defense must also report on whether the Department has transported any individuals to or from such a facility, and whether detainees in such facilities are to be tried by military commission. Finally, this report will include details about detainees held at DOD facilities for other Government agencies.

The second classified report required by this amendment is from the Director of National Intelligence to the Intelligence Committees of both the House and the Senate. In it, the Director will provide a detailed accounting of the nature, cost, and operation of any clandestine prison or detention facility operated by the U.S. Government, regardless of location, where detainees from the global war on terror are being or have been held.

Now, let me be clear: We are not passing judgment on the merit or the value of these facilities. What we are saying is we need to know and understand what the policy of our country is, what is being done with taxpayer money, and what are the appropriate accounting and oversight mechanisms with respect to this.

In its reporting, the Washington Post said:

The CIA and the White House, citing national security concerns and the value of the program, have dissuaded Congress from demanding that the agency answer questions in open testimony [about the facilities].

My colleagues will note that both of these reports would be classified, both of them would be limited to the committees of jurisdiction. This is not about open testimony. It is about Congress doing its appropriate job through the appropriate committees.

I do not have any doubt that in the American public's mind we are all united and determined to win the war against radical Islamic terrorists. But I do know that any

administration that tries to keep Congress in the dark ultimately winds up damaging the very effort we are engaged in. We have seen this all through history. This goes back for years in the relationship of oversight by the Congress and efforts by administrations to undertake clandestine initiatives on their own.

The executive branch cannot win this by itself. It needs Congress to be invested. It needs Congress to be knowledgeable. It needs Congress to act on behalf of the American people. And in this case, the simple job of oversight is critical to our ability to maintain the consensus necessary for our Nation. We have seen too often too many instances of efforts that go awry that cost us leverage as a nation, cost us leverage with other communities, and ultimately may even cost us lives of Americans because they do go awry without the proper consent.

We also do better as a country in these kinds of efforts when Members of both parties across the aisle have joined together in a foreign policy that represents the broad consensus of the American people and where all of us are accepting responsibility for our actions.

I would hope my colleagues, the distinguished chairman and ranking member, would accept this amendment because I think it acts in the best interests of this institution and of our Nation.

With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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