The Senate voted without dissent yesterday to require the Bush administration to issue guidelines aimed at ensuring humane treatment of prisoners at U.S. military facilities and to report any violations promptly to Congress. But, as it plunged into the controversy over abuse of detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and whether interrogation methods were sanctioned by U.S. officials, the Senate balked at a Democratic proposal to bar interrogation by private contractors, who have been accused of involvement in the Abu Ghraib scandal.
It also rejected another Democratic proposal to make it a crime, punishable by as many as 20 years in prison and substantial fines, to engage in war profiteering. Instead, the Senate approved a Republican alternative extending two anti-fraud criminal statutes to cover overseas business operations. In banning “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of prisoners, the Senate was writing into law the policies that the administration has said it is following in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and international law. Passage of the proposal by voice vote came after Republicans, facing defeat on the measure, agreed to raise no objections and offer no alternatives if the vote was taken by voice instead of putting all senators on record with a roll call, according to Democratic sources. Final passage of the initiative is subject to negotiations with the House, which did not include similar language in its version of the defense bill.