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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Wednesday, 29 September 2004

Topic: The Law

Legislation: The guy who used to coach high school wresting has a modest proposal...

THE DRAMATIS PERSON?:

Dennis Hastert -

See September 5, 2004 - Well, it could be true... you just never know for a discussion of his hints that George Soros is supporting Kerry with money from drug cartels. Should something happen to the President, then to the Vice President, the next in line to run the whole show is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. You could look it up in the constitution. That go-to guy at present would be Representative J. Dennis 'Denny' Hastert, Republican of Illinois, graduate of Wheaton College (fundamentalist Christian) and a former high school wrestling coach at Yorkville High School (1964-1980). He's been in the House since 1986 and speaker since 1999. Between the coaching gig and the US House, he spent four years in the Illinois House of Representatives. He's been around.

Maher Arar

Arar was the Canadian citizen we secretly deported to Syria. We don't do torture. They do. Torture is not US policy. And we thought he was a bad guy. We picked him up at the Newark airport. But, damn, it seems he wasn't a bad guy. We had bad information. His crime was that his mother's cousin had joined the Muslim Brotherhood long after Maher moved to Canada. And after ten months of torture and incarceration in a quite tiny cell in Syria, he was allowed to return to his home in Canada. Oops. Now he is suing the US government. He is not happy. (Discussed previously here (August 1, 2004) and here (December 21, 2003).

THE ISSUE:

"Extraordinary rendition"


That is the term we now use for sending terrorism suspects to countries that practice torture for interrogation.

THE TRIGGERING EVENT:

That would be an item from UPI - Wednesday, September 29, 2004

See White House backs Senate 9/11 reforms
Shaun Waterman, United Press International

This is long item on the current legislation under consideration to implement the recommendations of the commission that looked into what happened back on September 11, 2001 and what we could do to make sure such a thing never happened again. Parallel bills are working their way through the House and Senate, and everyone, left and right, is trying to drop in special provisions. And the two bills now do not match up at all. It's a bit of a mess.

Buried in the article is this gem -
Supporters of reform on both sides of the aisle say several of the bill's provisions in the House version risk complicating, or even derailing, the bill's progress [in the Senate].

These include measures that make it easier to deport aliens without a court hearing and restrict their right of appeal; a provision that broadens the definition of both "material support" and the organizations to which it is a crime to provide it; and a clause legalizing the practice of so-called extraordinary rendition, when suspected terrorists are removed to countries that practice torture.

Reformers say there are no equivalent provisions to these measures in the Senate bill. These differences are expected to become a complication when legislators from both chambers meet to reconcile their respective versions and hammer out a single measure.
This is only mentioned in passing, and in passing, note that UPI is owned by that odd Reverend Moon, the madly religious conservative fellow who publishes the Washington Times - staunchly pro-administration and pretty far to the right, the newspaper of the current regime if you will.

DISCUSSION:

Someone who calls herself Katherine R has some observations that are a bit unfavorable about the Republican leadership of Congress attempting to legalize extraordinary rendition. She quotes one of our intelligence officials in the Washington Post describing it this way, "We don't kick the shit out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the shit out of them." She's opposed to it. And, as she points out -
As it stands now, "extraordinary rendition" is a clear violation of international law--specifically, the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading and Inhuman Treatment. U.S. law is less clear. We signed and ratified the Convention Against Torture, but we ratified it with some reservations. They might create a loophole that allows us to send a prisoner to Egypt or Syria or Jordan if we get "assurances" that they will not torture a prisoner - even if these assurances are false and we know they are false.
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge and all that - as we may not do torture, but we can outsource it. (Well, at Abu Ghraib and a lot of other places we did do torture, but we're sorry and know now that was wrong, and not approved, and the fault of some low-level fools who didn't understand Rumsfeld wanted them to be careful not to cross any lines, so to speak.)

Katherine R also points out one that last month one Edward Markey, a Massachusetts congressman (a finicky Democrat of course), introduced a bill (PDF format) that would clear this all up and just outlaw extraordinary rendition. But Markey only has twenty-two cosponsors as, one supposes, no one wants to appear to be soft on the bad guys.

Katherine R quotes from press release from Markey's office (her emphases) -
The provision Rep. Markey referred to is contained in Section 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10, the "9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004," introduced by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL). The provision would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue new regulations to exclude from the protection of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, any suspected terrorist - thereby allowing them to be deported or transferred to a country that may engage in torture. The provision would put the burden of proof on the person being deported or rendered to establish "by clear and convincing evidence that he or she would be tortured," would bar the courts from having jurisdiction to review the Secretary's regulations, and would free the Secretary to deport or remove terrorist suspects to any country in the world at will - even countries other than the person's home country or the country in which they were born. The provision would also apply retroactively.

This provision was not part of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, and the Commission actually called upon the U.S. to "offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors." The Commission noted that "The United States should engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach to the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists. New principles might draw upon Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed conflict. That article was specifically designed for those cases in which the usual laws of war did not apply. Its minimum standards are generally accepted throughout the world as customary international law."
These standards prohibit the use of torture or other cruel or degrading treatment....

Rep. Markey said, "When the Republicans 9/11 bill is considered in the House, I intend to offer an amendment to strike the torture outsourcing provisions from the Republican bill and replace it with restrictions restoring international law as provided in my bill. It is absolutely disgraceful that the Republican Leadership has decided to load up the 9/11 Commission bill with legislative provisions that would legitimize torture, particularly when the Commission itself called for the U.S. to move in exactly the opposite direction."
The part about this applying retroactively is cute, but what is Hastert up to? This former wrestling coach thinks the 9/11 Commission was kidding about offering "an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors." Yeah, Hastert thinks they were kidding, or wrong about that.

Katherine R does point out that there is no possible way for a suspect being detained in secret to prove by "clear and convincing evidence" that he will be tortured if he is deported - especially when he may be deported to a country where has never been, and "when the officials who want to deport him serve as judge, jury and executioner, and when there is never any judicial review."

Well, yeah. And she says that this bill would make what happened to Maher Arar perfectly legal, and "guarantee that it will happen again." And her friend in Markey's office told her "this bill could be on the House floor as early as next week."

You could write your congressman (or congresswoman) and tell them this is an extraordinarily bad provision and it ought to be removed from the bill - as it is counterproductive, rather immoral (or amoral or whatever), and just a really bad idea that would make us even more hated around the world, and for good reason.

Or you could assume it will never survive the conference committee where they try to reconcile the House and Senate versions, and cooler heads than Hastert's will prevail, and folks will laugh at him, and Dennis will bluster, and then the item will just get dropped.

Or you may be one of those people, like Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz, who is strangely attracted to the idea of torturing those who may or may not be innocent and thinks it may be justified these days. Sometimes you just have to do it? I guess.

And you may agree with Hastert because he's resolute and firm, and you may be a former wrestling coach for all we know.

And you may be seething with anger at all these swarthy people in the Middle East making so much trouble and messing with our oil or whatever, and think with glee of scaring the crap out of anyone who looks at us funny by letting them know we play rough.

Or you may just like getting back at people and making them hurt, a lot - even if who you select as your target is perhaps the wrong person. We all have those urges now and then.

Or you may just like the concept of a police state where you're guilty and get what you deserve, unless you can prove otherwise, if we let you. Such states are, in some ways, pretty efficient.

In that case don't write your congressman (or congresswoman).

Posted by Alan at 21:14 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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