The Bush Assministration sure does love their torutre.
The Senate defied a presidential veto threat nearly three weeks ago and approved, 90 to 9, an amendment to a $440 billion military spending bill that would ban the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” of any detainee held by the United States government. This could bar some techniques that the C.I.A. has used in some interrogations overseas.
But in a 45-minute meeting last Thursday, Vice President Dick Cheney and the C.I.A. director, Porter J. Goss, urged Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who wrote the amendment, to support an exemption for the agency, arguing that the president needed maximum flexibility in dealing with the global war on terrorism, said two government officials who were briefed on the meeting.
Mr. McCain rejected the proposed exemption, which stated that the measure “shall not apply with respect to clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States, that are carried out by an element of the United States government other than the Department of Defense and are consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States and treaties to which the United States is a party, if the president determines that such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack.”
“They are explicitly saying, for the first time, that the intelligence community should have the ability to treat prisoners inhumanely,” Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said. “You can’t tell soldiers that inhumane treatment is always morally wrong if they see with their own eyes that C.I.A. personnel are allowed to engage in it.”
Mr. McCain has kept the pressure on as the issue moves to a House-Senate conference committee, perhaps later this week or next. Shortly after the Senate vote on Oct. 5, Mr. McCain’s staff sent members of the conference committee letters endorsing the provision signed by more than two dozen retired senior military officers, including former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and John M. Shalikashvili, both former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
One of the principal amendments that Democrats are expected to offer, sponsored by Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, would create an independent commission to review accusations of prisoner abuse by American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere. The White House has also threatened a presidential veto if any bill comes to Mr. Bush’s desk that contains the provision.