Friday, September 22, 2006

Morning News Roundup (22 September)

A short one today as I've got a heavy non-blogging schedule...
BushCo's Torturin' Ways
  • The “compromise” on detainee policy reached yesterday “means that U.S. violations of international human rights law can continue as long as Mr. Bush is president, with Congress’s tacit assent,” the Washington Post notes. ABC News reports that CIA Director Michael Hayden “praised the deal…that, in effect, would permit CIA interrogators to use harsh techniques critics call torture.” [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

  • The NYTimes Editorial has more:
    [T]he three rebel senators achieved only modest improvements on the White House’s original positions. They wanted to bar evidence obtained through coercion. Now, they have agreed to allow it if a judge finds it reliable (which coerced evidence hardly can be) and relevant to guilt or innocence. The way coercion is measured in the bill, even those protections would not apply to the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

    The deal does next to nothing to stop the president from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. While the White House agreed to a list of “grave breaches” of the conventions that could be prosecuted as war crimes, it stipulated that the president could decide on his own what actions might be a lesser breach of the Geneva Conventions and what interrogation techniques he considered permissible. It’s not clear how much the public will ultimately learn about those decisions. They will be contained in an executive order that is supposed to be made public, but Mr. Hadley reiterated that specific interrogation techniques will remain secret.
    [...]
    The Democrats have largely stood silent and allowed the trio of Republicans to do the lifting. It’s time for them to either try to fix this bill or delay it until after the election. The American people expect their leaders to clean up this mess without endangering U.S. troops, eviscerating American standards of justice, or further harming the nation’s severely damaged reputation.

  • As does Glenn Greenwald, guest blogging at Salon's War Room:
    Despite all the legalistic obscurities surrounding the torture "compromise" between President Bush and Republican senators there is one critical fact of overarching significance that is now crystal clear. This entire controversy arose because the U.S. has been using "interrogation techniques" -- such as induced hypothermia, "long standing," threats directed at detainees' families and waterboarding -- that are widely considered to be torture, and therefore in violation of the Geneva Conventions. The only thing the president wanted was to ensure that the CIA could continue to use these techniques, and that, unquestionably, is precisely the outcome of this "compromise."

    If anything, these torture techniques will enjoy greater legal protection under the "compromise" legislation reached by the leaders of America's ruling party because a) authorization of these interrogation techniques will now be grounded in a statutory scheme duly enacted by Congress (rather than in the shadowy, secretive "interpretations" of the Geneva Conventions promulgated by the executive branch) and b) judicial review of any type (i.e., the ability to have courts adjudicate the compatibility of these practices with the mandates of the Conventions) will be barred entirely.

Enviro News
  • What the...?
    The Bush administration imposed stricter standards on the nation's air quality yesterday for the first time in nearly a decade, ruling that communities across the country must cut back on the amount of soot in the air on any given day.

    Ahhh... this is more like it:
    The agency did not go as far as its own scientists had urged in curbing soot, which is linked to heart and lung disease as well as childhood asthma. The decision sparked complaints on both sides of the pollution debate, with public health experts saying it was inadequate and industry officials calling it too stringent.


  • British billionaire Richard Branson pledged Thursday to invest all profit from his Virgin Group airline and train businesses over the next decade -- an estimated $3 billion -- to fight global warming and promote alternative energy.

    "Our generation has inherited an incredibly beautiful world from our parents and they from their parents," Branson said in New York, wearing jeans as he stood near former president Bill Clinton. "We must not be the generation responsible for irreversibly damaging the environment. We must hand it over to our children in as near pristine a condition as we were lent it from our parents." [WaPo]


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