In looking over the 'compromise' between the Bush administration and a group of GOP Senators led by John McCain, I can see that many of our worst fears have been realized.
The Senators and the President claim that the agreement brings us 'into compliance with the Geneva Conventions (you know, that document that Zap Albert once labelled as 'quaint' before being appointed Attorney General.') It does list a number of specfic types of treatment that might be construed as 'torture.' Of course history teaches us that there is no limit to what people can think of in terms of how to inflict pain on the human body.
Now, what can and can't be done is however not the kernel of why I find this agreement lacking. The reason is because it continues to leave the same people (in this case the Bush administration and then whoever follows it-- which John McCain hopes will be a McCain administration-- in the roles of judge, jury and executioner.)
The agreement leaves in place the right of the administration to set the rules in terms of what can be done in the way of renditions and other actions taken (judge), to determine exactly who is a 'terror suspect' without actually having to try them or having judicial review (jury) and of course to actually carry out whatever is being done (executioner).
And we've already seen the harm that this has caused. To begin with, a number of claims that were used to justify the Iraq war were based on, as I blogged last December, a coerced lie that was told by a guy trying to talk his way out of a torture chamber in Egypt. Now, given that the Bush administration was deadset on the Iraq war anyway, I doubt if the war would have been avoided if this guy hand't been snatched off an Italian street and handed over to Egyptian interrogators who got him to say what we wanted him to say, but it is certainly true that it points up one of the many pitfalls that can come out of this kind of treatment of prisoners.
Then there is the matter of Khalid al-Masri. The German citizen of Lebanese descent was grabbed by mistake and underwent 'rendition' to Afghanistan (a country where he had never been within thousands of miles from), where he was beaten and held without any legal representation for several months while his family in Germany had no clue on his disappearance, even for a few weeks after the CIA figured out they had made a mistake. Even after Condi Rice intervened and demanded that he be let out, it took several more weeks before it happened (one has to wonder what would have happened had the Secretary of State not gotten involved personally-- the phrase 'burying mistakes' springs to mind.) Al-Masri sued the U.S. Government. He made the mistake of suing in a Federal Court in Virgnia. In May, judge T.S. Ellis, dismissed the case-- not because it wasn't valid, but because it involved 'national security.'
Mr el-Masri's "private interests must give way to the national interest in preserving state secrets".
If we had some level of oversight outside of the executive branch of the administration, this might be excusable. But it is not. And neither is the agreement that has been reached. There are those who might say that people who oppose denying due process to terror suspects are 'coddling terrorists.' But then they forget what the purpose of due process is. It is not there to protect the guilty. It is there to protect the falsely accused. Without it, anyone could be accused of terrorism and held without trial (including American citizens-- don't forget the games they played with the Padilla case) for as long as they want to, and in whatever conditions they choose.
One other matter-- Democrats failed here. Democrats have always stood up for individual rights. And should have done so here. By remaining silent on the issue and letting John McCain take the lead instead, Democrats in effect have ceded the issue. And we well know that everything that John McCain does is colored by his own personal ambitions.