Shhh: Democrats move to ban “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” interrogations of detainees
posted at 7:15 pm on February 25, 2010 by Allahpundit
I’d rather see Obama simply appoint Andrew Sullivan “Heart-ache Czar” and let him give thumbs up or thumbs down to various interrogation techniques as he sees fit (hint: it’s always thumbs down), but credit where it’s due: This idea is even more arbitrary and irresponsible than mine. No small accomplishment.
There is great ambiguity over what constitutes “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” treatment. And the Act does nothing to clear up this gray area. The Act specifies certain techniques the Democrats think should be off limits, but those techniques are not clearly defined. For example, the Democrats want “prolonged isolation” to be criminalized as an interrogation technique. But “prolonged isolation” is not defined further and could be interpreted any number of ways.
In the criminal justice system, it is worth remembering, solitary confinement is typically used as a disciplinary tool. Here, in the interrogation context, it may very well rise to the level of “torture” under the Democrats’ open-ended phrase “prolonged isolation.”
The same goes for “depriving the individual of necessary food, water, sleep, or medical care.” Where does one draw the line on the amount of “necessary” sleep? Let’s say interrogators are questioning a detainee late into the night, and he says he is tired and wants to go to sleep. Are interrogators supposed to stop questioning him – even if they think he has timely, actionable intelligence on an impending attack? Is 6 hours of sleep per night sufficient, or do detainees need 8?
The Act prohibits interrogators from “[e]xploiting phobias of the individual.” But federal authorities threatened to place Najibullah Zazi’s mother in jail as a coercive measure to induce cooperation. While this was perhaps not one of Zazi’s “phobias,” it certainly was something that caused him great fear – enough reportedly to get him to cooperate. What constitutes a “phobia?”
That’s from Steve Hayes and Tom Joscelyn, who go on to say that the law will “surely cause confusion for interrogators.” But that’s the point, isn’t it? The more confused they are, the more they’ll err on the side of caution and the less likely it is that Democrats will be pestered with having to defend any questionable tactics used by the CIA. In fact, it gets better: According to Andy McCarthy, the bill states that prohibited conduct “includes but is not limited to” the procedures specified in the act, so an interrogator might run afoul of the law even if he avoids all of the forbidden techniques. The penalty if he does? 15 years in prison.
Whether it’s because he’s worried about the political backlash now that righty pundits have raised the alarm about this (Liz Cheney issued a statement, natch) or because he’s genuinely opposed to it on the merits, The One will have you know that he does not support this bill:
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.) The administration also has reservations about the prohibition on giving American authorities overseas the option to read captured terrorists Miranda rights.
An administration official said that the White House “did not coordinate with Congress on the manager’s amendment.”
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?
Incidentally, a House source tells Byron York that the bill was written “without committee review and without any feedback or input from the CIA.” Wonderful. Exit question via McCarthy: Why did the Dems try to slip this in now? Did they really think it would fly under the radar just because everyone was busy watching Masterpiece Theater today?