There’s a battle going on in Congress over the documentation of military interrogations. It’s been sparked by the consistent pattern of torture by military interrogators begun under the Bush Administration, and by Barack Obama’s decision to cover up evidence of that torture.
In the Senate, Joseph Lieberman has been leading the way in helping Obama to conceal evidence of torture that was conducted during military interrogations. In the House of Representatives last week, however, Congressman Rush Holt introduced legislation as a countercurrent to the push for coverup.
The legislation, an amendment to the Defense appropriations bill approved yesterday in the House of Representatives, requires military interrogations to be videotaped. An exemption is provided for battlefield tactical interrogations in which there may not be time to set up a camera.
The idea of required videotaping for interrogations is not an external imposition forced upon the military. It’s something the U.S. military itself recommended. In January of this year, a military task force issued a document known as the Walsh Report, which concluded, “We endorse the use of video recording in all camps and for all interrogations. The use of video recording to confirm humane treatment could be an important enabler for detainee operations. Just as internal controls provide standardization, the use of video recordings provides the capability to monitor performance and to maintain accountability.”
Videotaped interrogations help to prevent torture and other forms of detainee abuse, but also can guard against false accusations of abuse. Furthermore, the videotapes provide better intelligence, recording the nuances of information that memory cannot preserve and notes can misrepresent.
Who could oppose the military’s own recommendations for improving its interrogation techniques? 162 Republicans and 31 Democrats, that’s who. They voted against Rush Holt’s amendment, which passed nonetheless, thanks to 214 Democrats and 10 Republicans.