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John Kerry Offers Amendment to Require Reports on Clandestine Detention Facilities

by Pamela Leavey

Senator John Kerry just offered an amendment on the Senate floor demanding reports to Congress on the CIA’s now-public secret prisons in Eastern Europe. Here’s a breakdown of the amendment:

Purpose: To require reports on clandestine facilities for the detention of individuals captured in the global war on terrorism. The amendment does not shut them down (if they exist), rather it demands oversight.

Report of the Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense will deliver to the Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate a classified a detailed report on his knowledge, or the knowledge of personnel of the Department of Defense, of clandestine detention facilities for individuals captured in the War on Terrorism.

Report of the Director of National Intelligence
The Director of National Intelligence will deliver a classified report to the House and Senate intelligence committees providing a full accounting on any clandestine prison or detention facility operated by the United States Government, regardless of its location, where detainees in the Global War on Terrorism are held.

Kerry Statement on Amendment to Require Reports on Clandestine Detention Facilities (As Prepared):

Mr. President, in recent weeks we have heard allegations about the existence of secret prison facilities operated by the United States government in various countries around the world. I know that many of my colleagues take this matter very seriously. The Central Intelligence Agency has reportedly requested a Justice Department investigation of how classified intelligence information made its way into print. Clearly, the revelation of these programs is a serious national security matter that we can all agree on, no matter where we sit.

No one in this chamber underestimates the seriousness of the war on terror. It is a war that we must win. And no one underestimates the depravity and viciousness of our enemies. We don’t need to look any further than the bombings last night in Jordan to understand that we face an enemy that targets the innocent.

We know that success in any war requires the informed consent of the American people. And in an issue as sensitive as this, that informed consent can only be derived from Congress’ active understanding and involvement in these issues. That requires information and cooperation from the administration so that we in Congress can provide effective and informed oversight.

And that begins by knowing what the money we authorize and appropriate is being used to do. The fact is that we don’t. The vast majority of us first heard about clandestine detention facilities in the Washington Post last Wednesday. Since then we’ve heard that this may have been discussed by Vice President Cheney in a meeting with the Republican Caucus. If, as has been reported by Senator Lott, members of the Republican Caucus can hear about these facilities from the Vice President, then the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence should be able to receive a full accounting.

So the amendment I offer today seeks to reassert Congressional oversight in this matter by requiring two classified reports, one by the Secretary of Defense and one by the Director of National Intelligence to the appropriate committees, detailing the involvement of the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community in these activities.

Not later than 60 days after enactment, the Secretary of Defense will provide a classified report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees of any knowledge or participation in the operation of clandestine facilities by the Department of Defense, including support provided by the Department of Defense to any other part of the U.S. government or foreign government. The Secretary of Defense must also report on whether the Department has transported any individuals to or from such a facility, and whether or not detainees in such facilities are to be tried by military commission. Finally, this report will include details about detainees held at DOD facilities for other government agencies.

The second classified report required by this amendment is from the Director of National Intelligence to the intelligence committees of both the House and Senate. In it, the Director will provide a detailed accounting of the nature, cost, and operation of any clandestine prison or detention facility operated by the United States government, regardless of location, where detainees from the Global War on Terror are being or have been held.

Let me be clear: we’re not passing judgment on the merit or value these facilities-we’re saying we need to know.

In its reporting, the Washington Post, said, “The CIA and the White House, citing national security concerns and the value of the program, have dissuaded Congress from demanding that the agency answer questions in open testimony. . .” about the facilities. My colleagues will note that both reports would be classified and limited to the committees of jurisdiction. This isn’t about “open testimony,” it’s about Congress doing its job.

I don’t have any doubt in the American public’s determination to win the War on Terror. But I do know that any administration that tries to keep Congress in the dark is bound to damage the cause for which we are all fighting.

The Executive Branch cannot win this war by itself. It needs Congress to do its job too. In this case, that job is oversight-even of clandestine prisons and detention facilities.

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