As we witness the amazing spectacle of the President pushing Congress to explicitly authorize CIA torture, the Washington Post today has an article which suggests that Sen. John McCain may realize that it was a mistake to write the definition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment [CID] into his Amendment last year.
Embracing critics’ language
Another irony lies in the fact that the congressional rules for interrogations that the Bush administration now seeks to embrace in the new legislation — the so-called Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 — were vigorously opposed by the White House before their adoption by Congress. Bush disliked them so much that when he signed the law Dec. 30, he appended a statement objecting to some of its provisions and explicitly reserved his right to interpret them “in a manner consistent” with his constitutional authorities as president and commander in chief.
In another twist, the principal Republican lawmakers responsible for the Detainee Treatment Act — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — said last year that they meant the law to set a minimum, humane standard of treatment for detainees held by both the Defense Department and the CIA. But they now are telling colleagues it would be a bad law for the CIA to follow in the future because its language would slight international treaty obligations.
A retired intelligence professional who said he has discussed the matter at length with colleagues said the predominant view at the agency is that McCain — who made clear in congressional debate last year that he disapproved of what the CIA was doing — was surprised to learn later that the Detainee Treatment Act did not put a stop to it.
His bill “did not formally disallow anything that was being done,” the source said. Now, he said, McCain “is not going to let the practitioners off the hook.” [emphasis added]
Of course the same definition included in the McCain Amendment, which McCain himself now finds to be practically worthless, is included in the recent American Psychological Association so-called anti-torture resolution. [See my recent Protecting the Torturers: Bad Faith and Distortions From the American Psychological Association.] If the McCain Amendment doesn’t forbid CIA torture, neither does the APA resolution. One only wishes those who surreptitiously wrote the McCain definition, based on the US Reservation to the UN Convention on Torture, into the APA resolution would have the honesty to admit they made a big mistake and would move to correct it. Instead, they insist that the definition is the best possible. The question is, are they merely defensive and closed to self-examination or are they deliberately duplicitous? Only time will tell, perhaps.
September 16th, 2006