Friday, January 14, 2005

Anti-Torture Legislation Scrapped

I noticed this Post article a couple of days ago and meant to blog about it, but it somehow slipped my mind. The Post is enlightened enough to keep articles publically available for a couple of weeks after they're published (instead of moving them quickly to a pay-per-view archive), so the link should be good for a while.

The Senate had overwhelmingly (96 to 2) approved restrictions on 'extreme interrogation measures' by American intelligence officers as part of intelligence reform legislation. After pressure from the White House, these restrictions were removed from the bill. One reason given was that the question was 'too complex' to be included in the bill.

I must say I'm not surprised that the current administration would oppose curbs on extreme interrogation, but given that I'm unsure where to draw the line myself, this may not necessarily be a bad thing. Acceptable measures may depend to some extent on the circumstances, which would make legislation on the subject complex. What irked me, though, was the letter opposing the bill written by Ms. Rice.
In a letter to members of Congress, sent in October and made available by the White House on Wednesday in response to inquiries, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice expressed opposition to the measure on the grounds it "provides legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled under applicable law and policy."

Of course it 'provides legal protections to prisoners to which they are not now entitled'; that was the purpose of the legislation. Does the administration think that this is by definition a bad thing? Imagine that Congress was working on a law on the rights of domestic prisoners. Would the White House object on the grounds that it provides legal protections that go beyond those to which the prisoners are entitled now under law? For a more ridiculous example, consider funding for any government program. Should a bill proposing an increase in funding be stopped because it goes further than the current amount allocated?

I suppose it's useless to expect logic from any government, though. :-)

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