“Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, my good friend, Congressman Reyes of Texas, for all of his hard work on this legislation – the first Intelligence Authorization conference report that we have considered in three years.
“Let me say, briefly, that this conference report enhances oversight and effective management of the intelligence community, and accountability. It enhances the management authority and flexibility of the Director of National Intelligence. And it authorizes new funding to improve the effectiveness of intelligence programs and activities.
“This legislation also includes an important provision – added in conference – that requires all American intelligence agencies and those under contract or subcontract with intelligence agencies to comply with the U.S. Army Field Manual on Interrogations.
“Mr. Speaker, every Member here believes that our nation must take decisive action to detect, disrupt, and, yes, eliminate terrorists who have no compunction about planning and participating in the mass killings of innocent men, women and children in an effort to advance their twisted aims.
“We can, we will and we must prevail in the war on terror.
“However, in the pursuit of those who seek to harm us, we must not sacrifice the very ideals that distinguish us from those who preach death and destruction.
“Yet, under the current Administration, we have seen the line blurred between legitimate, sanctioned interrogation tactics and torture. And, there is no doubt: our international reputation has suffered and been stained as a result.
“The excesses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are well known, as are the Administration’s belief that the Geneva Convention against torture is “quaint” and the Vice President’s persistent effort to undermine the ban on torture championed by Senator McCain two years ago.
“Just last week, we learned that the Central Intelligence Agency destroyed – perhaps illegally – videotapes of interrogations conducted by American agents.
“These incidents sully our great nation’s good reputation. They raise questions about our commitment to human rights and the rule of law. And they allow our enemies to foment fear and stoke hatred.
“This provision – requiring all intelligence agencies to comply with the Army Field Manual on Interrogations – is an attempt by this Congress to repair the damage that has already been done.
“Furthermore, the techniques permitted by the Army Field Manual have been endorsed by a wide array of civilian and military officials as both effective and humane.
“Here, in fact, is what General David Petraeus wrote to members of the Armed Forces in Iraq in May: ‘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.’
“General Petraeus continued: ‘Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone ‘talk,’ however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. Our experience in applying interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual... shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.’
“Inexplicably, the Administration has issued a veto threat on this conference report because it would require all intelligence agencies to abide by the Army Field Manual. The Administration’s position is indefensible.
“This is not a question of whether we must combat – and defeat – terrorists. Of course we must.
“However, we must never let it be said that when this generation of Americans was forced to confront evil that we succumbed to the tactics of the tyrant; that we stooped to the depths of the dictator.
“I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle: Let’s demonstrate our commitment to the values that make us Americans. Let’s begin to repair and restore this nation’s reputation. Let’s adopt this conference report.”