(H.R. 2647) On the Holt of New Jersey amendment, which required the videotaping of the interrogations of all detainees being held by the Department of Defense or taking place in a Department facility, including the Guantanamo Naval Base
This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Holt (D-NJ). The amendment required the videotaping, or other electronic recording, of all detainees being held by the Department of Defense or taking place in a Department facility, including the Guantanamo Naval Base. It also required the Defense Secretary to develop uniform guidelines for such videotaping. Excluded was any “tactical questioning” by troops who are in contact with enemy fighters. The amendment also required that the recordings be properly classified and maintained securely. It was offered to the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Defense Department.
Holt claimed that the effect of his amendment will be to “improve the intelligence operations of our Armed Forces . . . .” He also claimed that “multiple studies have documented the benefits of video recording or electronically recording interrogations. Law enforcement organizations across the United States routinely use the practice both to protect the person being interrogated and the officer conducting the interrogations. It is the standard of best practice.” Holt noted: “(S)ome U.S. attorneys are on record as favoring this requirement for the FBI. And the Customs and Border Patrol does routinely videotape or electronically record key interactions and interrogations with those in their custody. Video recording is the standard within the United States for interrogations of all types in all agencies and for prosecutors.”
Holt cited the report of a task force convened by Secretary of Defense Gates to review detainee policy that said: ‘We endorse the use of video recording in all camps and for all interrogations. The use of video recording to confirm humane treatment could be an important enabler for detainee operations. Just as internal controls provide standardization, the use of video recordings provides the capability to monitor performance and to maintain accountability.’'
Rep. Skelton, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, supported the amendment. He claimed its effect will be twofold, in that “it protects our men and women in uniform who are conducting interrogations of detainees from frivolous claims of alleged abuse or coercion. Second, the videotapes will act as a deterrent for private contractors or other agencies who are conducting interrogations of the Department of Defense detainees from straying from those requirements of the Army field manual in the treatment of detainees. It is a way to ensure that it is done right.”
Rep. McKeon (R-CA), the Ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, opposed the amendment. He said: “(A)ccording to the Department of Defense, the provision would cause three main problems: it would severely restrict the collection of intelligence through interrogations. It would undercut the Department's ability to recruit sources. And it would impose an unreasonable administrative and logistical burden on the war fighter. A provision like this would create a public record that would go straight into terrorists' counter-resistance training programs.”
The vote was 224-193. Two hundred fourteen Democrats and ten Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and sixty-two Republicans and thirty-one Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, language was added to the 2010 fiscal year Defense Department funding bill requiring the videotaping of the interrogations of all detainees being held by the Department of Defense or taking place in a Department facility.