In a stunning move, the House Democratic leadership yanked a bill to reauthorize the nation’s intelligence programs from the House floor after a controversy erupted over punishing CIA interrogators who may cross the line while questioning suspected terrorists.
Republicans cried foul when Democrats added a provision to the measure that could punish CIA officers for engaging in “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” when they interrogate terrorism suspects.
The bill was set to pass Thursday evening. But a number of moderate and conservative Democrats teamed with Republicans to show the House leadership that they didn’t have to votes to approve the bill.
The language in question is vague. The bill gives Congress several years to define terms like “cruel” and “inhuman.”
Some of the enhanced interrogation methods in question include waterboarding (where a suspect is made to feel like he or she is drowning), electric shock, beatings, the use of dogs or even placing a hood over an individual’s head.
Under the legislation, some interrogators could be jailed for 15 years if convicted or receive a life sentence if a detainee dies in custody.
“It’s topsy-turvy land where we forget who the good guys are, who the guys trying to keep us safe are and who the bad guys are,” said Intelligence Committee member Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX).
But Democrats fired back.
“(The) majority and minority strongly support our intelligence community and we are absolutely committed to prosecuting this war to the fullest extent possible,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA).
A senior House Republican aide said it was “a victory” that Democrats had to pull the intelligence bill from the House floor.