Hating the light, Bush backs off on the torture bill

No, the President doesn’t want to be for torture publicly, so he’s backing off, leaving his supporters twisting in the wind.

What a difference a little publicity makes! Newsweek’s online edition reports that the Bush Administration has backed away from the torture bill, leaving its Congessional allies smarting.

As late as last week, attempts to take the provision out were being defeated on party-line votes in the House, and the bill was understood to be an Administration measure. But Katherine R at Obsidian Wings and Congressman Ed Markey made it impossible to sneak the “extraordiary rendition” clause into the intelligence reform bill quietly.

As a result, the White House Counsel is shocked — shocked! — to learn that someone has been trying to make the United States complicit in torture, and says so in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post:

Tuesday, October 5, 2004; Page A24

A Sept. 30 front-page article inaccurately reported that the Bush administration supports a provision in the House intelligence reform bill that would permit the deportation of certain foreign nationals to countries where they are likely to be tortured.

The president did not propose and does not support this provision. He has made clear that the United States stands against and will not tolerate torture and that the United States remains committed to complying with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Consistent with that treaty, the United States does not expel, return or extradite individuals to countries where the United States believes it is likely that they will be tortured.

ALBERTO R. GONZALES

Counsel to the President

Washington

(Mr. Gonzales doesn’t explain how the treatment of Meher Arar fits with that policy, but no doubt accidents happen.)

The finger is being pointed at the Department of Homeland Security as the sponsor of the bill; apparently DoJ wants it known that it wasn’t a Justice initiative, though last week the DoJ spokesgeek sounded pretty supportive.

The Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, who was playing cat’s-paw to the White House on this one, isn’t pleased. His spokesman said, “For whatever reason, the White House has decided they don’t want to take this on because they’re afraid of the political implications.”

That’s right. The Speaker’s guy just called the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief, a liar and a coward. Doesn’t that sort of thing embolden our enemies? After all, you can’t rally the troops with mixed messages.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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