Couldn’t the Bush administration achieve this through a presidential signing statement? Why go through the established process if executive power is plenary?
The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a war crimes law that would eliminate the risk of prosecution for political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel for humiliating or degrading war prisoners, according to U.S. officials and a copy of the amendments.
Officials say the amendments would alter a U.S. law passed in the mid-1990s that criminalized violations of the Geneva Conventions, a set of international treaties governing military conduct in wartime. The conventions generally bar the cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment of wartime prisoners without spelling out what all those terms mean.
The draft U.S. amendments to the War Crimes Act would narrow the scope of potential criminal prosecutions to 10 specific categories of illegal acts against detainees during a war, including torture, murder, rape and hostage-taking.
Left off the list would be what the Geneva Conventions refer to as “outrages upon [the] personal dignity” of a prisoner and deliberately humiliating acts — such as the forced nakedness, use of dog leashes and wearing of women’s underwear seen at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq — that fall short of torture.
I’d like to believe that this is a cowardly admission that some of our government’s policies are dishonorable (and illegal), but that’s too optimistic. Instead, I suspect the spin will involve thwarting a plot by activist judges, prosecutors, and politicians (traitorous Democrats, no doubt) to eliminate useful interrogation techniques because those nefarious individuals want our enemies to win. Or something. The president, he knows best. The only consolation is that the administration didn’t let this slide and then offer pardons for anyone convicted before January 2009. (I’m assuming the next president could pardon future patriots convicted of outrages upon personal dignity, since we’re at a permanent conservative majority.) Either way, this is shameful and should be rejected by the Congress.
Just because I like this quote:
Retired Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, the Navy’s top uniformed lawyer from 1997 to 2000 and now dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center, said his view is “don’t trust the motives of any lawyer who changes a statutory provision that is short, clear, and to the point and replaces it with something that is much longer, more complicated, and includes exceptions within exceptions.”
This administration has obfuscated enough.