Thursday, December 15, 2005

On torture... McCain wins! Or did he?

White house sources are saying that the white house has agreed to accept the legislation of Senator John McCain intended to outlaw torture of detainees under American control. This seems to be a victory for the good guys right? There are two developments that when considered against the Orwellian nature of this administration should cause champions of the American way to not celebrate victory quite yet.

First: The provision accepted by the white house allows American agents who may be prosecuted for torturing detainees to defend themselves by saying that it was reasonable for them to believe they were following a lawful order. This is the standard held by the military.

However the process by which a military order is determined to be lawful or even to have been given in the first place is regimented and not liable to be an issue. Can the same be said for CIA agents? The business of the CIA is by it's very nature clandestine, and in many cases not open to public debate. What is to stop CIA director Porter Goss from simply drawing up a list of techniques that would not be legal under the McCain language, and covertly giving that list to agents in the field for use against detainees. In which case the agent may reasonably argue that they felt they were following a legal order, and that order is classified. The legal battle over going to trial with the defense based upon classified evidence would be epic.

Second: The Pentagon yesterday updated the Army field manual with new instructions regarding the treatment of detainees. The new manual is classified so there is no telling what is legal now. My inclination here is to hold the applause on the McCain amendment passage until such point as it is clear that the new manual does not allow for the inhumane treatment of detainees.

The McCain amendment is a step in the right direction. What is really needed now is for the International committee of the Red Cross to be given access to all detainees under American control. And we need to push for legislation that expressly forbids the extra judicial rendition of detainees to other countries where it is well understood that prisoners are treated inhumanely.

Frankly, the damage to Americas reputation and standing in the international community has already been done by this administration. The road to recovery in regards to detainee treatment is for us to fully disclose who we have in custody, where they are held, and how they have been and will be treated. This administrations obsession with secrecy and extra legal proceedings in this regard hardly bode well for progress on this front.

Well, yea. Have the CIA training manual give false info to the interrogators. They learn illegal torture as being legal and can issue a plausabile denial. "Uh, I really did think I was following a lawful order because, this was described in the training manual."

Then there's this:

"intended to outlaw torture of detainees under American control. "

Well, if the law's wording is similar then, "Rendering" to a country were we can say the US has no 'control' can skate the legislation as well.

Do we torture now? Well, it might not be *cough* self evident but, it's pretty darn close. I would bet money on it.

Dec. 15th was Bill of Rights Day. Do you know where your individual liberties are hiding?
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