June 17, 2015

Melville House sending copies of the Torture Report to presidential candidates


senate torture report final smallAs we mentioned yesterday, on Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver discussed the Senate Intelligence Committee‘s torture report, and the need for all Americans to read it and fight for consequential political change. Because without that change, it could all happen again.

The rules we have on the books to stop us from returning to the dark days of torture are in one, easily reversible executive order. Now as it happens, John McCain and Dianne Feinstein have proposed an amendment due up for a vote next week, which puts the most basic parts of the president’s executive order into actual law, and we should pass that, because, if we don’t, there is no guarantee that the next president will uphold the ban.

That vote occurred yesterday, and the results were staggering.

In an effort led by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), senators voted in a landslide 78-21 to tack an amendment onto the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that would forbid the use of torture by any agent of the U.S. government and standardize certain noncoercive interrogation methods across the government’s military and intelligence arms.

Yet despite this broad, bipartisan support, only four of the 50 (or so) announced presidential candidates have gone on the record as supporting the ban on torture (Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders), and of those candidates, all are Democrats. The rest have offered no assurance that they would uphold Obama’s executive order. On the contrary, there’s good reason to think they wouldn’t. From The Daily Beast:

Within the Republican Party, some politicians still endorse waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques as effective means of interrogations. Just last month, former Texas governor Rick Perry said he would be willing to use such techniques if elected president.

In one presidential debate during the last election cycle, candidates Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain all expressed support for waterboarding. Rick Santorum also raised eyebrows when he claimed that McCain, who had personally endured torture, didn’t understand how the enhanced interrogation techniques worked.

Here at Melville House, we believe that the American people deserve to know where their leaders stand on vital issues, and that we know too little about our presidential candidates’ stance on torture. And, for that matter, our candidates know too little, too – after all, former vice president Dick Cheney said that he hadn’t even read the report, and this is surely true of many of the current candidates.

So to educate our leaders – and ourselves – we’ll be sending a box of copies of The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture (each box contains five books) to each candidate’s campaign headquarters (even, sigh, Donald Trump). Enclosed with the books is a simple letter.

Dear Candidate,

Please accept the enclosed copies of The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, compliments of Melville House. We hope you’ll read and share these copies with your staff and advisers, and that they will help you clarify your position on the legality, morality, and efficacy of torture.

Best wishes,

Melville House

As we said when we originally published our edition of the report, we believe this document is one of the most important in our nation’s history. Given the results of yesterday’s vote and the extraordinary attention the report has already received, we hope that the startling and upsetting revelations it contains will be widely read and widely discussed, and will lead to real and lasting change. But for that to happen, our recent history must remain at the center of political discussions in the coming years.


Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.