Idaho Sens. Crapo and Risch Say 'Nay' to U.S. Torture Ban 

The United States Senate voted June 16 to pass an amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act outlawing the use of torture against U.S. detainees.

Introduced by Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the vote comes six months after the release of a damning report detailing the Bush-era practice of so-called "enhanced interrogation" techniques at secret prisons around the world.

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch were among 21 Republicans who voted against the measure, joining GOP presidential candidate Lindsey Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul voted in favor of the measure, while candidate Marco Rubio was the lone member of the body not to cast a vote. The amendment passed with 78 votes, split between 32 Republicans, 44 Democrats and two Independents.

"Sen. Crapo believes we should not be broadcasting to our enemies exactly what our interrogation techniques are," Crapo spokesman Lindsay Nothern told Boise Weekly, reading from a prepared statement.

Nothern added that Crapo's vote was based on the disclosure of information, rather than the practice of torture.

"In the past he has expressed reservations about some of the things that were done, but he has been increasingly vocal about the tools that our military has at their disposal, some of the restrictions that were put in place," Nothern said. "At the same time, he is changing his mind and his tune on when we should put our troops out there—boots on the ground, so to speak. He is less inclined to do that, but when we do it, we ought not to hamstring them in regard to what techniques they can use, and I think this follows along with that."

A call to Sen. Risch's office was not immediately returned. Risch, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, joined Rubio in opposing the release of the committee's report on enhanced interrogation in December 2014, calling it "unconscionable" and dangerous.

"We are concerned that this release could endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardize U.S. relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies," Risch stated in a joint release with Rubio following publication of the report. "Simply put, this release is reckless and irresponsible."

Among the details in the more than 500-page executive summary were numerous instances of what groups ranging from Amnesty International to the United Nations have called torture, including use of waterboarding, beatings, stress positions and rectal feeding.

The alleged architects of the enhanced interrogation—referred to by pseudonym as Drs. Hammond Dunbar and Grayson Swigert in the report—were named in a 2007 expose from Vanity Fair as retired Air Force psychologists Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, respectively.

Following a monthslong investigation by Boise Weekly, Jessen was found to be an Idaho native, raised in the small farming community of Ashton near the Wyoming border. He has repeatedly dodged questions from reporters and currently lives in a rural area outside Spokane, Wash.

Human rights organizations around the world have called for prosecutions related to the torture program, but the U.S. Justice Department and President Barack Obama have stated that no criminal charges will be pursued against those involved.

Meanwhile, critics of the torture ban amendment have come forward stating that it doesn't go far enough.

In an email to Al Jazeera, former New York Democratic U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who co-authored a book about the Bush administration's torture practices, wrote that the amendment still relies on the Army Field Manual for guidance.

"That manual now permits sleep deprivation, stress positions and other interrogation techniques that could amount to torture," she wrote. "Still, if finally enacted, the amendment would send an important signal about Congressional opposition to torture."  

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