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US Senate passes defense bill amendment banning torture

The US Senate has passed a defense bill amendment banning torture. The amendment was introduced by Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The Senate voted 78 to 21 in favor of the amendment which strengthens current law and makes the US Army Field Manual on Interrogations the standard for all interrogations carried out by the US government.

It also gives the International Committee of the Red Cross access to every detainee held by the US.

The amendment will not become law until the defense bill passes both the Senate and House of Representatives, and the House would have to back the measure. If it passes, it would make it much more difficult for a future president to reinstate degrading methods.

The Senate amendment was introduced by Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.

McCain was tortured in the 1960s as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and has worked for years to end the abuse.

"This amendment provides greater assurances that never again will the United States follow that dark path of sacrificing our values for our short-term security needs," McCain said.

Ahead of Tuesday's vote, Feinstein said the presidential executive order banning torture could one day be lifted by a future president. Therefore, she said, the amendment was essential: "I ask my colleagues to support this amendment and by doing so we can recommit ourselves to the fundamental precept that the U.S. does not torture - without exception and without equivocation - and ensure that the mistakes of our past are never again repeated in the future," Feinstein said.

Feinstein led the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of the CIA's use of waterboarding, rectal feeding and other techniques on foreign terrorism suspects in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

jm/bw (AP, Reuters)

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