Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Tactical Differences

Via the AP, the Guardian reported yesterday that new anti-torture amendments introduced in committee by Senators McCain and Graham to a large defense spending bill have attracted a surprising amount of Republican support. The whole article's worth reading, but here's a relevant excerpt:

One of McCain's amendments would make interrogation techniques outlined in the Army field manual - and any future versions of it - the standard for treatment of all detainees in the Defense Department's custody. The United States also would have to register all detainees in Defense Department facilities with the Red Cross to ensure all are accounted for.

Warner introduced a watered-down version of McCain's amendment that would give the defense secretary the authority to set standardized rules over detention and interrogation of terror suspects, but he denied that he offered the alternative because of administration pressure.

Another McCain amendment would expressly prohibit cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody no matter where they are held.

Graham's amendment would put into law the procedures the Bush administration has in place for prosecuting cases of detainees at Guantanamo and, therefore, would provide a congressional stamp of approval to the Bush administration's legal policies, including of holding of detainees indefinitely.

"We need to have a congressional buy-in into this matter," Graham said.

His amendment also would allow any detainee to have a military lawyer - not just a military representative - available when appearing before annual review boards that determine whether a detainee should remain in custody.

Needless to say, these measures would represent progress on several fronts for anyone troubled by administration policies concerning prisoners in the war on terror. The first McCain amendment mentioned looks like it would put an end to the practice of "ghost" detention. I can't really say I'm as enthusiastic as Lindsey Graham seems to be about legitimizing the status quo policy of indefinite detention, but providing detainees with their own lawyers is certainly a positive step.

If these amendments really do have the support of ten Republican Senators plus McCain, Graham, and Warner, they might even be able to make it pass the veto President Bush is threatening. Of course, the seeming inevitability of that veto speaks volumes about the administration's regard for the rule of law, and America's image abroad.

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