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Rumsfeld: Military Always Has Banned Detainee Abuse

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2005 – President Bush's decision to support a congressional measure that bans "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment" of terror suspects in U.S. custody or under U.S. control won't change military operations because the military always has upheld those principles, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said during a Dec. 15 television interview.

Bush announced his endorsement Dec. 15 of the so-called "McCain Amendment," championed by Arizona Sen. John McCain, who underwent torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

"Senator McCain has been a leader to make sure that the United States of America upholds the values of America as we fight and win this war on terror," Bush said following a Dec. 15 meeting with McCain and Virginia Sen. John Warner in the White House.

The amendment makes it "clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad," the president said. It also provides protections for U.S. troops fighting on the front lines against terrorists, he said.

McCain said the agreement puts specific procedures for interrogations into the Army Field Manual and prohibits cruel treatment of detainees, including torture.

During an interview on the Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," Rumsfeld said the arrangement has no implications for DoD because the military always has maintained the amendment's standards. The military has had rules requiring humane treatment of detainees "from the beginning," he said.

In the few, but highly publicized, incidents in which those rules have been broken, the offenders have faced courts-martial and been punished, he said.

"We have had requirements for humane treatment from the beginning," Rumsfeld said. "Any time there has been something other than humane treatment, there has been prosecution."

The Defense Department always has taken allegations of detainee abuse seriously, and has responded to credible allegations with thorough and comprehensive investigations, said Army Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, a Pentagon spokesman.

DoD has conducted 12 major reviews, reports and investigations, multiple internal reviews and more than 600 investigations in response to detainee abuse allegations, he said. As a result, more than 200 soldiers, sailors and Marines have been punished.

Congress has provided oversight, with more than 31 hearings and staff briefings, Ballesteros said.

Throughout these reviews of detainee procedures, he said, no link -- direct or indirect -- has been found between interrogation policy and detainee abuse.

McCain said the policy underscores the fact that the United States does not endorse or tolerate detainee abuse.

"We're sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists," McCain said, but rather is "a nation that upholds the values and standards of behavior and treatment of all people, no matter how evil or bad they are."

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