Pay no attention to the news stories suggesting that the White House caved in yesterday.A Washington Post editorial nailed the key part to this travesty, stating "The bill would also immunize CIA personnel from prosecution for all but the most serious abuses and protect those who in the past violated U.S. law against war crimes." Yes, namely protecting Bush! That's why the president has been so adamant about securing this interpretation, resorting to tirades and visible derision. Because his butt was literally in the fire legally. He had to have retroactive protection or else possibly face legal charges when many of these prisoners soon tell their stories of torture to the Red Cross.
On the central issue of whether the CIA should continue using interrogation methods on suspected terrorists that many say constitute torture, the White House got its way, winning agreement from the "maverick" Republican senators who had refused to go along with an overt undoing of the Geneva Conventions.
The "compromise"? The Republican senators essentially agreed to look the other way.
As law professor Jonathan Turley said Friday on Keith Olbermann's show:
OLBERMANN: You have scoured this thing backwards and forwards for us. Does the deal prohibit torture, or does it not? Where is the boundary for extreme interrogation?The three "rebellious" GOP senators caved and gave GW his retroactive cover. The entire "fight" was a staged farce that benefited them all at the expense of our Constitution, the Geneva accords, and any U.S. soldiers captured in the future. Another disgrace in the hopper.
TURLEY: It does not prohibit torture. I mean, it‘s an example of why politics and principle are poor bedfellows. And here what you have is something that‘s being called a compromise. But it seems to me to rewrite the Geneva Convention in practice.
Under this agreement, the administration could do a great deal. It‘s sort of like telling a teenager that I don‘t want you driving at 90 miles an hour. And he thinks, Gosh, I can live with that, I‘d go to 89. And that‘s exactly what this does.
Under this language, presumably, you could beat a detainee, you could cut a detainee, you could impair a detainee‘s organs, as long as it‘s not significant or permanent. It allows a great deal. And I think that the administration could read this and say, This gives us the green light.
They do reinterpret what they mean. Earlier, we simply criminalized violations of Geneva Convention, like all civilized societies do. Here, we limit it to grave violations, which allow a great deal. It allows the type of flexibility that Alberto Gonzales and the White House seemed to want in that infamous torture memo.
OLBERMANN: So we discussed last week, we discussed earlier this week, the prospect that perhaps the president‘s anxiety about this had something to do with the possibility that he might be, or members of his administration might be, liable were some of these detainees, now at Guantanamo Bay, formerly in the CIA prisons, to suddenly go to the Red Cross, when they meet with them starting next week, and say, We were waterboarded, we were this-ed, we were that-ed.
(INAUDIBLE) have they covered, have they covered themselves? Do they think they have covered their, their, their international liability, or even their, their domestic liability?
TURLEY: Well, I think this is more about domestic politics, because the world is not going to accept this document, because it‘s ludicrous. And on Monday, most of us expect that these detainees are going to say that they were waterboarded.
And I don‘t think the administration‘s actually going to deny that fact. And the world will have an outcry that we have invented a troubling new term, American torturer, that the president ordered American personnel to engage in acts of torture under international law.
It will be an incredibly shameful moment. And that‘s why they‘re pushing this legislation before that occurs.
But this document has even worse things in the fine detail. Under this document, the Geneva Convention cannot be cited in a federal case. They are barring people from relying on the Geneva Convention in federal cases and trials.
So we have this wonderful system, you just can‘t use it. You can look at it. We can say that we are cloaking ourselves in Geneva Convention. You just can‘t apply it.
Not only that, it says that you can‘t apply international sources in foreign cases, that U.S. courts can‘t cite them.
By the way, the only time you can cite the Geneva Convention is if you‘re accusing another country of violating it. So as long as you don‘t accuse us, we‘d be happy to have the Geneva Convention cited in our courts.