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September 29, 2006

I miss habeas corpus...

More reactions to the Bush-McCain Torture Bill:
Jack Balkin
Dave Neiwert


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Check out Jesus' General today. Stark and to the point. And check out the comment thread. It's already grown to Atrios proportions.

This is from Byron York’s piece…on NRO (the man has good sources in the Republican world)

From some of the comments below, one would believe that the Republic has fallen. I’m not saying this was an optimal compromise for human rights. I am saying that its not some incomprehensible broadside against human dignity. We all know that some line will be drawn for American Interrogators. The question was always were.

“The key to the deal was the decision to have Congress define, in U.S. law, what are called “grave breaches” of the Geneva Convention. “We recognized that the president has the authority to interpret treaties,” says the source aligned with McCain/Graham/Warner, “but Congress now has the authority to define ‘grave breaches.’” In doing so, the negotiators enumerated nine offenses that everyone agreed constituted a grave breach of the treaty: torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, performing biological experiments, murder, mutilation or maiming, rape, causing serious bodily injury, and sexual assault or abuse, and taking hostages.

Some are quite clear. Rape is rape, and murder is murder. But what does “cruel or inhuman” treatment mean? There was a lot — a lot — of negotiation about that. For example, the two sides haggled over the meaning of “severe mental pain” versus “serious mental pain.” The senators maintained that “serious” was the more serious term, and they won. What that will mean in practice is not entirely clear, which is probably what both sides intended.

But what is clear is that, after defining grave breaches, Congress gave the administration significant leeway to define non-grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. “Grave breaches are crimes,” the source says. “Non-grave breaches are something else….We are going to spell out grave breaches, and then it is up to the administration to come up with sanctions for violations that are less than grave breaches.”

That could include many, if not most, of the techniques that the administration has used in the CIA interrogation program. For example, both sides appear to believe that the agreement permits the CIA to continue to use sleep deprivation, cold rooms, and other such techniques. On the other hand, the status of the most notorious of those techniques, waterboarding, is not quite clear. When a reporter asked Hadley whether waterboarding constituted a grave breach under the new agreement, he answered, “We are not going to get into discussions of particular techniques.” A few seconds later, he added, “for purposes of complying with our international obligations under international law, that’s something that the president will clarify by executive order.”

For their part, however, members of the McCain/Graham/Warner camp believe that the use of waterboarding will stop. “We have a high degree of confidence that those things, going forward, will not occur,” the source says.

Whatever happens, the public will likely know about it. According to the proposed legislation, the president will define those non-grave breaches in a series of executive orders. Those orders would then be published in the Federal Register, meaning the policy would be public and subject to public scrutiny — and debate.”

I hope this brings some clarity to the debate….and assuages some fears as to our republics future.

It's not just the torture (as if that weren't enough!)--it's the idea that the president asserts the right to kidnap and torture anyone he wants without charge.

Bush has already stated, repeatedly, that he's not bound by any law passed by the legislative branch if he doesn't want to be... so the fine print, at this stage of the game, can hardly be a source of comfort. So what was the legislation about? Aside from appealing to the rubes, these gestures help to give what every ruler craves, the appearence of legitmacy. Even Stalin went through the trouble of passing a law to grant himself "emergency powers", on a temporary basis, of course. I'm not expecting these people's self-declared "emergency" to end any time during my life span- are you?

I'm not expecting these people's self-declared "emergency" to end any time during my life span- are you?

Not by them, anyway. I don't think it will last...but only because we're going to end it.

Whatever happens, the public will likely know about it.

That you say that about actions to be taken in the absence of compulsion by this administrations suggests, with all due respect, that you might not be my primary go-to on clarity.

Just remember, Fitz.
Loyality is no defense in a purge.

Phitz speaks! Or rather, doesn't speak, but cuts-and-pastes. Where are your jibes about "masters of obviation" now, Phitzie? I ask you, if this is not masterful obviation, what is?

I was always told that we would always uphold the Geneva convention because it could come back to haunt us if we did not.

I'm afraid even if the Democrats win both chambers or hell I'd take one, this legislation won't go away easily. Given the number of Democrats who voted for it, how many of them would switch their vote after the election and possible Senate majority. How would they explain that to their constituents other than they were covering their political rear-ends?

Of course the Democrats must win, but I'm afraid this legislation will claims a few more victims before it's overturned.

At least it's the weekend and I'm drinking tonight. Woohoo!

Really important song right now. Please listen.

The sad thing is, the debate is now about 4.6% of the world. Apparently all American politicians agree that the 95.4% of the world that isn't American should be subject to the USA's torturing whim.

>I am saying that its not some incomprehensible broadside against human dignity.

True. It's a completely comprehensible broadside against human dignity.

>We all know that some line will be drawn for American Interrogators.

We do? I don't. I know that's what many of those who advocated for this bill probably think, but in fact (especially since the bill comes _after_ the excesses of Abu Ghraib, when you would expect legislation to be written to curtail torture, not extend its parameters), I'm pretty sure that more excesses will come, followed by stern assurances that someone will be punished, followed by low-level fall-guys being punished, followed by the repeat of all of the above.

This does feel like a fall.

>We all know that some line will be drawn for American Interrogators.

Um, yeah. What 1984 said. How exactly do we know this? The bill clearly spells out no judicial review. "We can trust these guys" never makes for good law.

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