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Common Article 3

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, like much of the Senate, I was taken aback to hear what the Attorney General had to say--and what he refused to say--before the Judiciary Committee this week. It is the latest in an effort to obfuscate and avoid accountability on issues of vital importance to this country's well being.

I fear the same was true on Friday, when the President signed an Executive order on Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to a Program of Detention and Interrogation.

A year and a half ago, the Congress overwhelmingly adopted the McCain amendment to ensure that no prisoner in our Nation's custody is ever subjected to torture or cruel treatment. Since then, all agencies of our Government have been abiding by the humane and professional standards in the U.S. Army's Field Manual on interrogation, and getting, by the administration's own account, excellent intelligence in the war on terror.

I am deeply concerned that President Bush may now be trying to reopen the door to cruelty that Congress shut. While the Executive order appears to rule out unlawful treatment, the administration has said that the order allows the CIA to resume at least some elements of its "enhanced interrogation'' program, and to use methods beyond those that our military employs. The administration still refuses to rule out torture techniques such as water boarding.

As our own military leadership repeatedly warns, if we say we can lawfully use an interrogation technique on enemy prisoners, what is there to prevent our enemies from employing the same interrogation technique on captured American military personnel? On Sunday, Director of National Intelligence Admiral McConnell acknowledged that the CIA can now use techniques to which he would not want to see American citizens subjected.

A policy that permits cruel and inhumane treatment at the hands of any U.S. Government personnel--whether referred to as "enhanced interrogation'' techniques or any other name--is simply counterproductive to an effective war against terrorists. As General Petraeus put it in his recent directive to those under his command in Iraq:

Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary.

These words are no less applicable to practices of the CIA.

Beyond the fact that they are neither useful nor necessary, torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of those in U.S. custody diminish the moral authority our country needs to wage an effective war against terrorists, and are simply used by al-Qaida as a recruitment tool to enlist more enemies faster than we can take them off the battlefield.

Every agency of our Government should be held to the same interrogation standards that our military lives and swears by. No one should be subject to treatment that would outrage us if inflicted on an American. Whenever America has been threatened in the past, there has been a divide in our country between those who believe that our liberties and laws make us weaker, and those who believe they make us stronger. I believe that our commitment to the rule of law is our greatest strength. We will win this war as we have won every great conflict in our history--by staying true to who we are and to the values that distinguish us from our enemies.

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