Saturday, September 23, 2006

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.

5 Comments:

At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Charles Amico said...

Jeremy, I think the 3 Senators caved in on their principled position because of politics. I have written extensively on this as I was outraged when I heard a Constitution lawyer from Georgetown say the President now decides if it is torture or not. Read my 2 entries and comment if you get a chance.

Thanks.

 
At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Thomas Brock said...

Senator McCain on CBS' Face the Nation just reinforced that the information would be posted in the Federal Register. Nobody asked about Tony Snow's comment about that not being required.

 
At 11:53 AM, Anonymous The Lemming Herder said...

The three were bullied by the rest of the Republicans. They made a stance, got their names in the press for a few days, then gave Bush what he wanted.

http://dontbealemming.com/2006/09/24/is-america-the-worlds-bully.aspx

Posted by the Lemming Herder from Don’t Be A Lemming!

 
At 3:05 PM, Blogger Lanky_Bastard said...

Torture is best left as exactly what it currently is: a war crime. It's incompatible with our values and the idea can only be entertained in the largely mythical "ticking-bomb scenario". As it stands though, we already have a provision for that. If such an event ever occurs, the interrogator could committ the unthinkable and then beg the president for a pardon.

Prosecution of enemy combatants does require new legislation, but it's unrelated to our torture policy (excepting that we've probably tortured the current batch of prisoners).

 
At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Rick 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."

From what I can see, McCain is using this as an opportunity to polish his (fake) 'maverick' image: pretend to oppose Bush, talk big for a few days, cave as required and gain nothing. So what's new? And has it really taken you five years to see that Bush and his crew are as cynical, grasping, and self serving as they are?

I simply cannot believe that we are having discussions about whether torture is legitimate, and how much torture is OK, and what is torture, anyway?...I don't care how rotten the enemy is, we were once supposed to be the Good Guys, remember? We were the ones who didn't engage in horrific practices, who believed in the Geneva Convention, who called others to account for being bestial and horrible. Look at us now. I'm deeply ashamed of us.

 

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