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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008 -- (House of Representatives - May 16, 2007)


Mr. HOLT. Madam Chair, I thank my friend, Mr. Tierney, for his leadership on this issue. I have worked on nuclear proliferation and weapon defense issues for decades. I can assure my colleagues in this House that with our present or even projected technologies, the administration's ``neo-Star Wars'' proposal has poor odds of defeating a ballistic missile strike on the United States. Our missile defense system does not work and wishing will not overcome physics. It can be confused by decoys, it faces numerous testing problems. To put it bluntly, it is a faith-based military program, not one grounded in science.

Furthermore, it is destabilizing and it is a wasteful program that robs us of funds that we need for truly important real-world crises facing our communities and our Nation and our national security.


Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Let me begin by thanking Chairman Skelton for his consideration in support of this amendment.

Some time back I was asking U.S. servicemen about interrogation of some detainees. Suppose you and your translator are not familiar with the dialect of the detainees, I said, how would you make a tape available to a good linguist for review?

What tape, they said.

Later in other circumstances I learned about charges of mistreatment of detainees. But the only record of our treatment of detainees were the shameful recreational photos of Abu Ghraib. An official recording would have helped the situation, perhaps even have prevented the problems.

Hundreds of law enforcement organizations in all 50 States and the District of Columbia employ recording of interrogations and that is becoming the standard for interrogations around the United States. It improves the ability to get the best information, and it protects all parties involved, the interrogators and the detainees. I believe the lessons of those law enforcement organizations can be applied to our current detainee policies.

For years, police officers around the country resisted the idea of putting video cameras in their cars and interrogation rooms. Now those cameras, the dashboard camera, for example, is one of the cops' best friends. Today, such tools are widely used by law enforcement organizations around the country because of the protections and the investigative value they provide.

My amendment has three provisions: to require video recording of interrogations and other pertinent interactions between U.S. military personnel, or contractors, and detainees arrested and held. The video records would be kept at the appropriate level of classification and be available for review by intelligence personnel to help maximize the intelligence benefits of such interrogations. It would require the Judge Advocate General, pursuant to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to develop guidelines designated to ensure that the video recording sufficiently prevents abuses of rights of detainees and prisoners.


Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, I thank the Chair for his comments.

Indeed, this is becoming the standard of interrogation. The video recording is inexpensive, easy to use, and it helps.

My amendment would also afford access to prisoners by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture.

The electronic recording of interrogations is a concept that has been endorsed by multiple domestic and international organizations. In 1998, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations strongly recommended that interrogation of suspects in police custody and substitute prison be strictly monitored and recorded by electronic means. In 2004, the American Bar Association urged all law enforcement agencies to videotape the entirety of custodial interrogations of crime suspects. Hundreds of DAs and prosecutors use these techniques.

Today, the ACLU noted in their endorsement letter of this amendment that it would increase the accountability for compliance with the McCain antitorture amendment. Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch expressed similar statements in their endorsement letters, and I will include in the Record these letters of endorsement from Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, and the ACLU.


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