Administration Backpedals Already ...
Well it was really only a matter of time. While my initial feelings about the deal struck between the Rebellious Trio and the Administration were positive, it has been made abundantly clear by White House and other executive branch officials that the whole negotiation process was little more than a charade on the part of the Bush team. I should have known: so much for hope springs eternal, not with this crowd.
One important part of the compromise was that the president would issue executive orders outlining specific interrogation techniques "that do not rise to the level of grave breaches [under the Geneva Convention], but are still objectionable," which would be banned under this legislation. Those orders would have to be published in the Federal Register, a step to guarantee transparency and allow Congress (and the public) to monitor those decisions. McCain and the other senators had insisted on this step, and the White House agreed to it. However, spokesman Tony Snow said Friday "that administration lawyers told him that such publication might not be necessary." Strike One.
Another key element: the original legislation from the Senate banned the use of evidence obtained through "cruel, unusual or inhumane treatment" no matter when said evidence was obtained. The Administration argued successfully that the clock should only be started in December '05, when the Detainee Treatment Act was passed - meaning that evidence obtained even through coercive means before that time could be used. I agree with Senator Carl Levin on this point, who said yesterday "This approach, which was insisted upon by the administration, would put our own troops at risk if other countries decide to apply a similar standard, and is abhorrent to American values." Strike Two.
Finally, there is a major concern over what appears to be a major ambiguity in the compromise legislation regarding the right to appeal via habeus corpus procedures (i.e. that some detainees are still going to be stuck in legal limbo without a way to appeal their perpetual detention). Senator Specter has said the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on this issue on Monday and hopefully they'll be able to amend this away when the bill reaches the floor, but still, this is an issue that needs solving." Strike Three.
Now, that said, I think the senators did get a great deal more than they had originally, and they forced the White House to give up some major points. However, I'm afraid that they took the negotiations at face value, and while it pains me to have to say it, I can draw no other conclusion but that this Administration headed by this president is incapable of good-faith negotiation and honest dealing. As I wrote yesterday, McCain, Warner and Graham deserve some credit for wringing water out of a stone. Unfortunately, it's clear now that that water is undrinkable.