Intelligence bill passes in second-round vote; Hoekstra says Democrats snuck in interrogation provision amid health summit distraction

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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The House passed the Intelligence bill on Friday afternoon with 235 voting yes to 168 voting no, after Democrats pulled the bill Thursday night.

This go-round, a provision allowing CIA officers to be prosecuted over interrogation practices, was absent.

Republicans had threatened to vote against the entire bill on Thursday night when they became aware of a late addition of the CIA provision, authored by Rep. Jim McDermott, that established criminal penalties for CIA officers using “inhuman” or “cruel” methods during interrogations.

Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra charged Democrats of trying to take advantage of the attention being on President Obama’s highly publicized health-care meeting to push through the bill with an unpopular provision.

“That Democrats would try to bury this provision deep in the bill, late at night, when they thought everyone’s attention would be focused on the health-care summit is a testament to the shameful nature of what they were attempting,” Hoekstra said in a statement.

The CIA provision was stripped from the legislation that will be voted on Friday. But the McDermott provision called for a CIA agent involved in waterboarding a suspect to face up to 15 years in jail, POLITICO reported, or life in prison if the detainee died.

McDermott acknowledged in a statement that there have been “some pretty imaginative accusations from my Republican colleagues when they were talking about an amendment I offered,” but defended the legislation saying that “brutal interrogations are [already] illegal right now.”

He said his “amendment would have expanded on the president’s executive order to clearly define what constitutes a cruel, inhuman or degrading interrogation, so that it is unmistakable what kinds of techniques are unacceptable” and is “based on the Army Field Manual’s definition as acceptable and unacceptable interrogation tactics.”

“Brutal interrogations are not an effective tool to collect information, and what’s worse, they actually may produce unreliable information,” McDermott said.

Hoekstra said “it was clear” that congressional Democrats had not consulted each other, Republicans, Obama or the intelligence community on the McDermott provision.

“The annual intelligence bill should be about protecting and defending our nation, not targeting those we ask to do that deed and giving greater protections to terrorists,” he said.