Friday, December 16, 2005

White House Says “Uncle!”

After being put to the thumbscrews by John McCain in recent weeks, the White House finally gave in and accepted his “No torture, no exceptions” provision yesterday. McCain had been trying to append the ban to a defense spending bill for some time.

This defeat for the White House is a victory for American ideals. We should never (again) lower ourselves to the level of the Husseins, Amins and Mengeles of the world.

While the specifics still need to worked out, there are some troubling aspects to the compromise.

Interrogators will be permitted to say they were following orders, or thought they were following orders, if sued by their subjects in a court of law.

I’m not sure why some insisted on this condition, but it sounds frighteningly reminiscent of the “We were following orders” defense used by so many Nazis after World War II. In fact, it’s exactly the same.

What’s perhaps most troubling is that, as long as we hold ghost detainees in secret prisons, torture may well continue covertly. If officials are not willing to confirm the location, identity or even existence of a prisoner, our laws certainly can’t protect them.

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