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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise in opposition to the motion of the Senator from Colorado. As the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, let me just say in response to the statement from the distinguished chairman of the Judiciary Committee that there has not been a lack of discussion of this issue, both within the Armed Services Committee and within the Intelligence Committee. While I am not permitted to talk about what has gone on within the Intelligence Committee, I assure my colleagues that this has been a major issue from a discussion standpoint for a number of months. In fact, it has been a point of discussion for almost 3 years now. I will get into some of that in my comments.

Secondly, just in quick response to the comment of the Senator from Illinois, the assistant majority leader, when he talked about how we would treat U.S. citizens under this, I know how smart he is, and he is my friend, but he obviously hasn't read the bill. There is a specific exclusion for citizens of the United States being required to be detained by the military in this bill.

Over the past several years, there has been an ongoing debate concerning our Nation's ability to fully and lawfully interrogate suspected terrorists. One thing remains clear: After all of these years after 9/11, we still lack an unambiguous and effective detention policy. The consequences of that failure are very real. If we had captured bin Laden, what would we have done with him? If we had captured Anwar al-Awlaki, what would we have done with him? If today we capture Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida, what would we do with him? Many of us have posed these same questions to various administration officials, and the wide variety of responses only confirms that there is no policy. That is unacceptable, and that is why the detainee provisions in this bill are so absolutely critical.

I think it is fair to say that if we had captured bin Laden or Awlaki, we could have gained very actionable intelligence from either one of them, and that is our primary goal.

But how would we have done that? We have no detainee policy; there is no place we could have taken them for long-term interrogation. The closest thing to a policy we have heard from the administration is that Guantanamo is off the table. But that is not helpful when they provide no other alternatives.

We have heard some administration officials say holding detainees on ships for brief periods of time solves this detention problem. Now, Senator McCain just addressed that issue, and we have a great U.S. Navy. It is not the intention of the U.S. Navy to function in a way of sailing ships around the world and having terrorists brought to ships for detention. A state-of-the-art facility like Guantanamo Bay is off the table, but holding someone on a ship, never intended to be a floating prison and prohibited from long-term detention by the Geneva Conventions is somehow a humane replacement for Guantanamo? That simply does not make sense.

The intent behind the detainee provisions in this bill is very simple: We must be able to hold detainees for as long as it takes to get significant foreign intelligence information without them lawyering up, as the Christmas Day bomber did so famously after only 50 minutes of interrogation.

Again, to my friend from Illinois, who talked about the fact that once this young man's parents got involved, that after his Miranda rights had been given to him, he gave us an awful lot of intelligence--and that is true in his case--I doubt very seriously that Zawahiri's parents, who probably are not even alive, are going to step up and tell their son: You ought to go in and talk to these folks and give them all the details about the way you helped plan the September 11 attacks on the United States of America. We just know with high-value targets that is not going to happen on a wholesale basis, and we simply need to be in a position to gain actionable intelligence from every one of those individuals.

While I fully support the detainee provisions in this bill, I believe there are other improvements that can and should be made. For example, I am cosponsoring Senator Ayotte's amendment which will allow our intelligence interrogators to use lawful interrogation methods beyond those set forth in the Army Field Manual.

We need to be clear on exactly what this means. This amendment does not authorize or condone torture, and every technique used in every interrogation must comply with our laws and treaty obligations. I believe there needs to be flexibility in how we interrogate terrorists. But even more so I believe it is foolish to publicize--as the Army Field Manual does--the specific techniques that can be used in interrogating a suspected terrorist.

Over the years, we have heard repeatedly from the intelligence community that the element of surprise is sometimes our greatest asset in gathering timely intelligence from detainees. Senator Ayotte's amendment gives the intelligence community the ability to use techniques that have not been broadcast over the Internet. In my opinion, that makes a lot of sense. I hope my colleagues will agree because the folks we are dealing with in the terrorist world today--these guys who are the meanest, nastiest killers in the world; who wake up every morning trying to figure out ways to kill and harm Americans--are not stupid. They carry laptops. They know how to use the Internet. We gain valuable information oftentimes through the airwaves. We know how smart they are, and we know they have the capability of going on the Internet today and reviewing the Army Field Manual. They know exactly the way they are going to be interrogated and the type of techniques that are going to be used to gain intelligence from them.

The Armed Services Committee has worked very hard on a bipartisan basis to come up with legislation that will improve congressional oversight of detainee matters, as well as provide greater assurance that detainees who pose a threat to our national security are not released so they can return to the fight.

As the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I have a specific interest in making sure our intelligence community has the ability to gather timely and actionable intelligence from detainees. I believe this bill will help our intelligence interrogators do exactly that, and I urge my colleagues to support these provisions fully as was done on a unanimous basis within the Armed Services Committee when this issue was discussed, debated, and talked about thoroughly during the markup.

I yield to my friend from New Hampshire.


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