I got caught behind the curve on this story, for which I truly and sincerely apologize. It’s obviously a big one, and the nutroots has gone berserk over it even by normal berserker nutroots standards. Blazing blue WaPo columnist Dan Froomkin calls it “a defining moment for this nation.” The even bluer Dahlia Lithwick at Slate says it’s a “watershed”:
Now we are affirmatively asking to be left in the dark. Instead of torture we were unaware of, we are sanctioning torture we’ll never hear about. Instead of detainees we didn’t care about, we are authorizing detentions we’ll never know about. Instead of being misled by the president, we will be blind and powerless by our own choice. And that is a shame on us all.
Slate’s actually put together a clickable “taxonomy of torture” that graphically illustrates all the things the CIA will be able to do to Ayman al-Zawahiri once they have him in custody.
Meanwhile, Greg Tinti’s got video of Pat Leahy on the Senate floor comparing the bill to practices used by the Taliban, Saddam, or characters “in the fiction of Kafka.”
For sheer shrillness, though, one newspaper tops them all. Guess:
We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.
They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Strong words. Weighing it all in the balance and discounting for the usual Bush = Hitler paranoia, I’m forced to conclude that the bill is, in fact, probably very mildly bad.
But see, even when I’m inclined to believe them and take their side, I really can’t because I catch them either exaggerating or outright lying. For example, the Times describes one of the flaws in the bill this way:
Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.
Well, no. Those two aren’t always contradictory, no matter how much Pope Andrew I wishes they were. Watch the Brian Ross video and listen to him patiently explain how information coerced from Khaled Sheikh Mohammed proved to be quite reliable indeed. And ended up saving god knows how many Californians’ (blue state!) lives.
They want us to debate honestly on this. Fine. I’m willing to, if it’s a genuinely honest debate. The first step of which is for us to concede we don’t want innocent people or even not-so-innocent people who are guilty of ordinary crimes to be mistreated, and for them to concede that in some instances these tactics are important and effective. If we start from the position that no one should be tortured even if we credibly believe it will prevent airplanes from being flown into skyscrapers, then we are at what is known as an unbridgeable impasse.
Vote’s upcoming. I’ll update with the roll when it’s done. In the meantime, our eternal allies are pursuing security Saudi-style.
Update: Jonah’s in the same spot I’m in.
I’ve now heard two very different versions of the detainee bill compromise. One version, a la, Bruce Ackerman in the LA Times, says that Americans can be unilaterally declared enemy combatants and deprived of habeus [sic] corpus (this also seems to be Specter’s version). The other version says this isn’t true because the Hamdi decision and other safeguards don’t allow it and even detained enemy combatants can challenge the enemy combatant designation. I have not had a chance to study any of the fine print. Anyone know of an honest broker who has sorted through all of this in a clear-headed and non-partisan manner?
Update: According to DU, Reid doesn’t have the 40 votes needed for a filibuster.
Update: It’s 5:08. Fox says the vote is imminent.
Update: A Freudian slip germane to this post by the headline writer at CNN’s Political Ticker:
Update: Who said it? “I think that I’ve become — I hope — a credible spokesman for a muscular view of anti-terrorist activity by the Democrats as well as the country. The fact is, I’ve never been just an anti-war guy.”
Bush is taking off the gloves:
“Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstructionism and endless second-guessing. The party of FDR (Franklin D. Roosevelt), the party of Harry Truman, has become the party of cut and run,” Bush told more than 2,000 cheering loyalists in a Republican fund-raising speech.
Update: 65-34, it passes. Waiting for the roll.
Update: This is unfortunate:
By mostly party-line votes, the Senate rejected Democratic efforts to limit the bill to five years, to require frequent reports from the administration on the CIA’s interrogations and to add a list of forbidden interrogation techniques.