The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, (DTA) is an act of the American Congress passed in December 2005.

The Act sets the Army’s standards for interrogation as the norm for all agencies within the Department of Defense and prohibits all other organizations, such as the CIA from utilizing “cruel, inhuman or degrading” punishment.

Observers say that subsequent amendments keep the DTA from having any significant ability to stop torture by the American government.


The Controversy

The military penitentiary was opened in January 2002. Its purpose was to keep detainees caught up in George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” The Bush administration deliberately placed it on an American naval base in Cuba where Bush’s lawyers said was past the arm of American law.

American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claimed the detainees represented the “worst of the worst.” The individuals wearing orange jumpsuits, shackles and ear-muffs were driven to their knees as American officials verified that bonuses had been given. Among those wrongfully detained was Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese reporter who was caught on his initial job for Al Jazeera.

The Bush administration claimed the detainees were being held in “humane situations.” Inside the initial two years, it was reported that the inmates were put through Abu Ghraib-style agony. A few dozen inmates tried to take commit suicide. The International Red Cross said it had seen the men’s mental health deteriorating.

Notwithstanding campaigns by activists and academics, the Bush White House insisted the detainees were not cleared to be heard by the standard American civilian courts or by military court martials. Standard protections provided by the Geneva Conventions were not honored either, and a fresh policy of legal military commission guidelines was established.

In 2008, the American Supreme Court determined that inmates had the benefit of requesting under habeas corpus when challenging their detentions. The Supreme Court also ruled that the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 was flawed.


Congress Needs to Act

Activists are calling for America to put torture in the past. Congress can do that.

When Congress debated the bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act, Senators Dianne Feinstein, and John McCain pressed their colleagues to strengthen the prohibition against the types of torture occurring during the Bush administration.

As mandated by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, all American personnel were ordered in vague and general terms to refrain from “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment of anyone in custody.

The truth is that only interrogators hired by the Department of Defense were mandated to follow the Army Field Manual which makes specific practices off-limits. The Central Intelligence Agency was exempt from the mandate. Bush vetoed, in 2008, an attempt by Congress to force the CIA to follow the manual.

It seems obvious that the torture methods used at Guantanamo amounted to “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment. Attorneys for the Bush administration showed that general definitions of torture could be construed to justify the abuses.


The Dark Side

In the months following 9/11, the American government forgot American values and moved to what former Vice President Cheney has termed “the dark side.”

It wasn’t until 2105 that the public was given a summary of the conclusions of a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of Bush-era detention policies.

In her forward to that report, Feinstein wrote that Obama’s executive order stopping the torture should be set in legislation.