Dems doubt detainee deal

Congressional Democrats were skeptical on Friday of a deal negotiated by three hold-out Republican senators to rein in President George W. Bush’s program to interrogate and try terrorism suspects.

As Bush’s fellow Republicans prepared to move the agreement through Congress next week, lawmakers checked the fine print of a compromise bill that would allow aggressive CIA interrogations of foreign suspects but require that they comply with Geneva Conventions, which ensures humane treatment of prisoners of war.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the deal "a substantial improvement" over Bush’s plan, but said it still had "a number of problems."

But Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, derided it for using "legal mumbo jumbo to obscure the fact that the CIA will continue to be allowed to use torture and will actually be insulated from legal liability for previous acts of torture."

Many Democrats were formulating their positions on the bill.

Bush went to Congress after the Supreme Court in June ruled that his plan for trying foreign suspects did not meet judicial standards. He has repeatedly denied charges by international critics that interrogations of suspects amount to torture.

Bush and the Senate Republicans who challenged his proposal — John McCain of Arizona, John Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — cinched a deal on Thursday that allows aggressive CIA interrogations and would more narrowly define what is punishable as a war crime under U.S. law.

But Bush agreed to drop an effort to redefine U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

The agreement gives defendants access to classified evidence being used to convict them, although it could be in redacted or summary form. It sets stricter limits than Bush wanted on evidence obtained by coercion, requiring a judge to decide if it is reliable and in the interest of justice.


Congress is expected to consider the legislation next week to set up trials for suspects at the U.S. naval facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

U.S intelligence chief John Negroponte, at a conference in Oxford, England, told Reuters and the International Herald Tribune that "work is already being done amongst our prosecutors to prepare the cases for trial," but declined to give a timetable for their start.

Human rights groups disagreed on whether the bill would significantly change CIA’s interrogations, which have been condemned for violating international standards.

Christopher Anders, of the American Civil Liberties Union, called it "a significant step back," although much better than Bush’s proposal.

But Elisa Massimino of Human Rights First said the agreement that would criminalize "serious" acts of cruelty and would bar "waterboarding" that simulates drowning, and should bar other harsh methods such as induced hypothermia.

With the deal, Bush would outline interrogation techniques that must comply with the Geneva Conventions, and the Senate and House Intelligence committees would review those.

Levin complained that while the deal limits use of testimony obtained by coercion, "it inexplicably" allows such statements obtained before December 30, 2005.

A number of Democrats also object that the deal strips detainees’ habeas corpus rights to challenge their detentions.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, said excluding habeas corpus rights was unconstitutional and set a hearing on the issue for Monday.

© Reuters 2006


  1. C.D. Mills

    In “Dems Doubt Detainee Deal,” Sept.. 23, 2006 is the following,

    Levin complained that while the deal limits use of testimony obtained by coercion, “it inexplicably” allows such statements obtained before December 30, 2005.

    There is little question why the Bush Administration would require that in the deal; but why indeed would Republican senators like McCain, who stood against torture, allow such? Something smells very rotten. Just who specifically are those particular senators protecting, and what will be the international consequences against America and American troops if Congress makes the CIA unaccountable for inhumane acts?

    This was in Democracy Now. “Headlines for December 30, 2005” at

    Secret Prisons, Renditions Enacted Under Broad CIA Program

    The Washington Post is reporting new details of the covert CIA program enacted shortly after 9/11 by the Bush administration. The Post says the program, known by its initials GST, marks the largest CIA covert initiative since the height of the Cold War. It includes a range of controversial programs that have been recently uncovered or subjected to public scrutiny — including the kidnapping of terror suspects abroad, the maintenance of secret prisons in at least eight foreign countries, the use of interrogation techniques considered illegal under international law, and the operation of a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe.

    Powers authorized by President Bush include permitting the CIA to create paramilitary teams to hunt and kill designated individuals anywhere in the world. The Post reports the CIA is working to establish procedures that would allow for the quick cremation of a detainee’s body in the event the detainee dies in custody.

    A government official who has been briefed on the program said: “Everything is done in the name of self-defense, so they can do anything because nothing is forbidden in the war powers act. It’s an amazing legal justification that allows them to do anything.”

    C.D. Mills

  2. Phil

    ‘Skeptical’ and ‘a number of problems’ is the best they can come up with??!?

    Those pesky little Geneva conventions are ‘vague’ for a reason. The idea is that any treatment that could even remotely be considered torture is outlawed. If there’s any doubt about any ‘interrogation technique,’ you don’t quibble over whether it’s considered torture, you immediately stop it so there’s no question left.

    That’s the response we should be hearing. “This bill is a criminal abomination. All prisoners are to be treated well and fairly with due process of law, unconditionally, with no exceptions.” Any Dem or Rep who gives any other response doesn’t deserve your vote, your time or your money.

  3. erika morgan

    Why is it that congress doesn’t get it that the public of the US would wish and think it is our responsibility as US citizens Republicans and Democrats to stand up for our principles and that any torture is never O.K. This is really a subject for Winston Churchill language and a time for a hero.

    We would rather give all our lives then have any human or animal mistreated, that is; (TREATED WITHOUT DIGNITY AND RESPECT AS A FELLOW LIVING BEING) in our name.

    Without principle the US is nothing and in this Cavez is absolutely correct, in his speech to the UN, that is why there is such an outrage over what he said, but it applies to each and every one of us, not just Bush if we do not stand firm even against our representatives. This matter can have no negotiation.