UPDATE: It was Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) who introduced the bill, not Rep. Sylvester Reyes (D-TX) as mentioned in the post. Read the rest of Ed Lasky’s piece to see how despicable the “Honorable” Mr. McDermott truly is.
We’ll see how far this goes. Per Byron York, Congressional Democrats tried to slip in a manager’s amendment called the “Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Interrogations Prohibition Act of 2010″ into the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act. The amendment would definitively ban the type of waterboarding performed by the CIA against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and two others (that’s it; 3) more than 7 years ago (and hasn’t done any since), along with some other not-so-clearly-defined items that may or may not be considered torture as defined in U.S. law. As explained by Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn, these other items include prolonged isolation, depriving the individual of necessary food, water, sleep, or medical care, exploiting phobias of the individual, hooding of detainees (there are other harsher techniques as well, but those items could, in theory, be considered torture under the law already); but, the problem as Hayes and Joscelyn note is that there is a great ambiguity in the amendment as to when these interrogation techniques cross the line towards being cruel, inhuman, and degrading; maybe that’s the point, although it leaves interrogators more worried about being prosecuted than worried about protecting the U.S.
Two things have occurred since I first saw this.
First, and this surprised me, although it should have been expected: the White House is, shall we say, less than enthused about the amendment inserted by Rep. Sylvester Reyes (D-TX):
The White House isn’t happy; they’ve already threatened to veto the bill because it, in their mind, it infringes upon the rights of the executive branch by forcing the administration to disclose more about intelligence operations to more members of Congress — Section 321. (Obama, like previous presidents, believes that the executive branch possesses the sole authority to decide what national security information is and how to protect it.)…An administration official said that the White House “did not coordinate with Congress on the manager’s amendment.”
And as York mentions, the amendment was added without either the review of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (whose chairman is, ironically, the aforementioned Rep. Reyes) or input from the CIA.
What’s interesting about this is how the Obama administration is actually worried about doing its job to protect the American people and the country (and the Constitution); yet, it wasn’t so long ago that executive power as practiced by the Bush administration led to then-Sen. Obama whining about it continuously, along with most other Congressional Democrats and “civil liberties” charlatans. Oh, how the worm has turned. It’s lonely at the top, isn’t it Barack? Allahpundit adds:
Why would Captain Transparency have a problem sharing intel with Congress? And why wouldn’t he want a hard and fast list of prohibited interrogation procedures codified? Sure, it would tie his hands by forcing him to follow congressional statutes during detainee questioning instead of the sort of executive orders that he can lift or amend as he sees fit, but that’s one of the left’s big problems with John Yoo, isn’t it? If you leave the president alone to set his own procedures, he and his legal team could end up condoning “torture.” So why the reluctance now to impose legislative oversight?
Let me add my own little wrinkle to this. I think Obama is rightly concerned that Congress will tell the President what he/she can or can’t do when it comes to the administration’s ability to manage the war, including interrogations. However, I have no doubt that the administration doesn’t have a problem with the Judicial Branch putting restraints on the Executive Branch, even unconstitutional ones as it did with the Bush administration, which would provide Obama with the cover to say “It wasn’t me.” See, with a bill, the President has to either sign it or veto it (as mentioned in Article I, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution, he could wait 10 days while Congress is in session and a bill would automatically become law, although that would leave Obama exposed to similar charges made against him while he was a legislator, that he voted “present” way too often), thus putting his butt on the line. But in a way, there is already a conundrum since it is Congress that has the power to make the rules regarding wartime captures. Of course, the Reyes amendment was inserted without any input from the administration, which one would think would be a requirement before such a measure is part of any legislation.
Second, an update by Hayes and Joscelyn says this:
A press release from Pete Hoekstra’s office indicates that the House bill has been pulled because of opposition to the provision targeting interrogators.
So, it looks like this legislation is in hiatus. For now. But I have a feeling shrieking lefties will do what they can to bring it back.
Andrew McCarthy writes what his take is on all this, and Liz Cheney put out a statement as well.
None of this has anything to do with the UN Convention against Torture. When the Senate ratified it in 1994, the U.S. added a reservation that stated that any prosecution of torture would be governed exclusively through the U.S. Constitution, thus rendering any foreign attempts to prosecute potential international law violations toothless. And although the Reyes amendment is similar in tone to an additional Protocol on cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment that was added to the treaty some years later, the U.S. never signed or ratified that Protocol, meaning it has no relevance as it relates to U.S. law, not even the Reyes amendment.
(Hat tip: Memeorandum)