In a telling move, during a call with reporters today, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley would not even answer a question about whether waterboarding would be permitted under the agreement.
Published Sept. 23, 2006
Critics say torture deal opens door to abuse
Compromise challenged by rights activists
By Margaret Talev and Greg Gordon
WASHINGTON - Several Democrats and civil rights advocates charged Friday that a Republican compromise over the treatment of terrorism suspects leaves the door open for torture and abuse, while stripping captives of a basic right to a court appeal.
"This is a bill that's essentially going to continue to allow coercive interrogations," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented about 500 detainees, many of them held for more than four years at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "I find it just shameful as a human rights lawyer who's spent my life suing every dictator in the world over this kind of stuff."
But leading Democrats stopped short of opposing the compromise plan announced Thursday between the White House and Senate Republicans. The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, called the compromise "promising."
. . . .
Ratner said the bill appears to allow CIA interrogators to continue leaving scantily clad detainees in cold rooms, forcing them to stand in stressful positions or denying them sleep for prolonged periods - possibly all at once. "I would hope they will come out and say that's not allowed," he said. "Right now, this bill is full of holes."
The measure, he noted, does nothing to bar renditions, in which the CIA or another agency transfers custody of a detainee to a foreign government, where the detainee could be tortured outside U.S. jurisdiction.
. . . .
The legislation also limits detainees from appealing in federal court to challenge their detentions - a right that dates to the Magna Carta in the year 1215. Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., of the Senate Judiciary Committee has voiced concerns and scheduled a hearing Monday to explore that issue.
Defense Lawyers Assail Legislation on Detainees
By Richard Simon and Julian E. Barnes
LA Times Staff Writers
September 23, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Military defense lawyers assailed compromise legislation for interrogating and prosecuting terrorism suspects, contending Friday that proposed rules would prevent them from learning whether evidence used against their clients was obtained through coercion or torture.
At the same time, rights groups that initially endorsed the compromise between the Bush administration and key Senate Republicans expressed reservations, saying it appeared on closer reading to be vague and could give President Bush and future presidents too much latitude.
"It is worse than the system that was in place before," said Marine Maj. Michael Mori, a military defense lawyer. "It is not going to ensure there is a fair trial."
. . . .
Army Maj. Tom Fleener, an attorney who represents a Yemeni man imprisoned at Guantanamo, said that under the proposed rules, "there is no way for the defendant to determine how the evidence was obtained. There is no way to find out how the witness was interrogated because the techniques are going to be classified."
The compromise leaves it up to military judges to determine whether evidence had been coerced and can be admitted.
"(4) UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT.--The term 'Unlawful Enemy Combatant' means an individual engaged in hostilities against the United States who is not a lawful enemy combatant.
"(1) UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT.--(A) The term 'unlawful enemy combatant' means--
"(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or
"(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.
The intelligence report cites "leftist" groups as a terror threat
The now-declassified summary of the National Intelligence Estimate (PDF) on "Trends in Global Terrorism" focuses almost exclusively on Islamic extremists. But inserted at the very end is this one overlooked, though seemingly quite important, passage that identifies other terrorist threats:
"Anti-U.S. and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely, and more anonymously in the Internet age, raising the likelihood of surprise attacks by unknown groups whose members and supporters may be difficult to pinpoint." It continues: "We judge that groups of all stripes will increasingly use the Internet to communicate, propagandize, recruit, train and obtain logistical and financial support."
Prior to 9/11, the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil was in Oklahoma City, where Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in pursuit of his right-wing, anti-federal-government agenda. But there is nothing in the NIE findings about right-wing or anti-government groups. Instead, there is a rather stark warning about the danger of "leftist" groups using the Internet to engage in terrorist attacks against the United States. Is there any basis at all for that warning?
There have been scattered reports over the last several years that the Bush administration's anti-terrorism programs have targeted domestic political groups solely because such groups espouse views contrary to the administration's. That this claim about "leftist" terrorist groups made it into the NIE summary is particularly significant in light of the torture and detention bill that is likely soon to be enacted into law. That bill defines "enemy combatant" very broadly (and the definition may be even broader by the time it is enacted) and could easily encompass domestic groups perceived by the administration to be supporting a "terrorist agenda."
Similarly, the administration has claimed previously that it eavesdrops on the conversations of Americans only where there is reasonable grounds (as judged by the administration) to believe that one of the parties is affiliated with a terrorist group. Does that include "leftist" groups that use the Internet to organize? This NIE finding gives rise to this critical question: Are "leftist" groups one of the principal targets on the anti-terrorism agenda of the Bush administration, and if so, aren't the implications rather disturbing?