This is typical Obama fashion: distract you with one issue then sneak another in the back door while you aren't looking.
While the country and the Congress have their eyes on today’s dog-and-pony show on socialized medicine, House Democrats last night stashed a new provision in the intelligence bill which is to be voted on today. It is an attack on the CIA: the enactment of a criminal statute that would ban “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” (See here, scroll to p. 32.)
The provision is impossibly vague — who knows what “degrading” means? Proponents will say that they have itemized conduct that would trigger the statute (I’ll get to that in a second), but it is not true. The proposal says the conduct reached by the statute “includes but is not limited to” the itemized conduct. (My italics.) That means any interrogation tactic that a prosecutor subjectively believes is “degrading” (e.g., subjecting a Muslim detainee to interrogation by a female CIA officer) could be the basis for indicting a CIA interrogator.
McCarthy suggests that the Democrats waited until after the "politicized witch-hunt against John Yoo and Jay Bybee" concluded because to admit that waterboarding and other tactics were not illegal before would damage that "investigation." We had to "pretend" they were illegal before, but now that the investigation is over, we have to make it offically illegal.
So what does this provision make illegal, exactly? This:
Waterboarding is not all. The Democrats’ bill would prohibit — with a penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment — the following tactics, among others:
- “Exploiting the phobias of the individual”
- Stress positions and the threatened use of force to maintain stress positions
- “Depriving the individual of necessary food, water, sleep, or medical care”
- Forced nudity
- Using military working dogs (i.e., any use of them — not having them attack or menace the individual; just the mere presence of the dog if it might unnerve the detainee and, of course, “exploit his phobias”)
- Coercing the individual to blaspheme or violate his religious beliefs (I wonder if Democrats understand the breadth of seemingly innocuous matters that jihadists take to be violations of their religious beliefs)
- Exposure to “excessive” cold, heat or “cramped confinement” (excessive and cramped are not defined)
- “Prolonged isolation”
- “Placing hoods or sacks over the head of the individual”
Naturally, all of these tactics are interspersed with such acts as forcing the performance of sexual acts, beatings, electric shock, burns, inducing hypothermia or heat injury — as if all these acts were functionally equivalent.
Seriously? You can't "exploit the phobias of the individual"? What if KSM has a phobia of confined spaces? Or of people in uniform?
Prolonged isolation? How long is "prolonged" exactly?
McCarthy concludes with:
Here is the fact: Democrats are saying they would prefer to see tens of thousands of Americans die than to see a KSM subjected to sleep-deprivation or to have his “phobias exploited.” I doubt that this reflects the values of most Americans.Amen to that.
Update: Thankfully, the bill has now been pulled:
A controversial bill that would have levied criminal punishments on intelligence officers for harsh interrogations was pulled Thursday evening.
House Republicans charged Democrats with trying to sneak a provision into the intelligence authorization bill that would establish criminal punishment for CIA agents and other intelligence officials who engage in “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” during interrogations......
Republicans criticized the language and the way it was introduced.
“This will fundamentally change the nature of the intelligence community by creating a criminal statute governing interrogations,” said Rep. Pete Hoesktra (R-Mich.).
He added that it had appeared “out of nowhere” in a manager’s amendment.
“Would someone on the other side please explain the rationale behind this and why the majority was unwilling to have hearings on this issue?" he said.
On Thursday night, Hoekstra lauded the GOP effort against the bill."Republicans brought this to the attention of the American people, who were rightly outraged that Democrats would try to target those we ask to serve in harm’s way and with a unified push we were successful in getting them to pull the bill," Hoekstra said in a statement. "The annual intelligence bill should be about protecting and defending our nation, not targeting those we ask to do that deed and giving greater protections to terrorists."
Update: This is now a growing thread at Memeorandum.