NEW YORK - December 23 - The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law expressed deep concern over a provision of the Defense Appropriations bill that Congress has passed. This provision would effectively permit the use of evidence obtained by torture in the cases of Guantanamo Naval Base detainees. The amendment, introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham, Carl Levin and Jon Kyl, would severely curtail federal court review of detainees' cases, allow military tribunals to rely on evidence gained from torture, and undermine vital ongoing attorney-client relations for Guantanamo detainees.
"The Graham-Levin-Kyl Amendment is flatly inconsistent with our constitutional heritage," said Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center. "Congress has never before allowed physically coerced information to be used as the basis for decisions about individual liberty."
The Graham-Levin-Kyl Amendment is part of a legislative package with an amendment proposed by Sen. John McCain that would bar cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel. But the Graham-Levin-Kyl Amendment opens a backdoor to torture: It would permit the CIA to cooperate with foreign intelligence services that use torture to extract evidence through coercion. That evidence would then be available as a basis for detention decisions.
"Congress is taking with one hand what it has given with the other," explained Waldman. Never before in American history has a Congress put its stamp of approval on the use of physically coerced testimony to make decisions between liberty and imprisonment. Even in past times of war, this practice has no precedent.
"This bill will not put an end to physically coercive interrogation tactics that yield unreliable information, cautioned Professor Burt Neuborne, legal director of the Brennan Center and Inez Milholland professor of Civil Liberties at NYU School of Law, "But it will erode our moral standing in the world community and subject our troops to almost certain reprisals in the future." Professor Neuborne spearheaded a letter, signed now by more than 450 law professors, urging Congress to remove the Graham-Levin-Kyl Amendment from the Authorization bill. The Brennan Center has also organized a similar letter, from a distinguished bipartisan group of retired federal judges, opposing the Amendment.
The Brennan Center urges senators and representatives to repeal the Graham-Levin-Kyl Amendment in the 2006 National Defense Appropriations Bill at the earliest opportunity. Visit http://www.brennancenter.org.