Anti-Torture Amendment Wavering

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A new human rights report will be released soon, revealing a whole barrel full of bad apples: “More than 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody since 2002, Human Rights First research in a soon to be released report indicates, including 27 cases the Army has to date identified as suspected or confirmed homicides, and at least seven cases in which detainees were tortured to death. The findings come as chairmen and ranking members of a House/Senate Conference Committee are scheduled to meet next week to determine whether to include in a defense appropriations bill an amendment setting clear rules for U.S. interrogation policy to prohibit abusive treatment.”

Meanwhile, with regards to the above-mentioned McCain amendment, which sets guidelines for interrogations, Marty Lederman recently pointed out that politicians opposed to any and all restrictions on torture—including Dick Cheney and his congressional allies—will soon try to water down the bill by exempting the CIA from its provisions. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has already tried to steer the bill in this direction, and we can expect more along those lines. As it stands now, the McCain amendment is couched in fairly general language, and wouldn’t prevent all detainee abuse—the Pentagon could always reword its Army manual to get around many of the restrictions—but the changes and exemptions Stevens wants would essentially give an explicit green light to the CIA’s interrogation tactics, and would for the first time put the congressional seal of approval on the administration’s views on torture.

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