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Friday, July 02, 2004

Controversial New Law Would Require President to Obey "Supreme Law of the Land" 

Sounds rather Draconian to us. From the Op/Ed page of the NY Times:
In a recent late-evening session noted mostly for Republican grousing about Democratic senators who had attended a screening of "Fahrenheit 9/11," the Senate considered an amendment to the Pentagon budget bill that would require the president to abide by the Geneva Conventions. It was passed, with the support of five Republicans who resisted frantic arm-twisting from the administration. Now we'll see whether the House can muster the political courage to follow suit.

The amendment, by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, calls on the administration to account for all foreign prisoners who have been denied P.O.W. status. It also requires the government to "expeditiously prosecute" cases of terrorism to avoid "the indefinite detention of prisoners," to say who is in the Guantánamo Bay lockup and to account for those who are unlikely to face legal proceedings in the next six months. Finally, it requires the Pentagon to turn over the Red Cross reports on American military prisons it has been withholding.

The administration bombarded Republican senators with arguments that ranged from disingenuous to downright silly. Defense Department lawyers complained that the amendment did not offer clear enough standards for the treatment of prisoners — an astonishing argument for an agency that has not been able to explain exactly what standards it was following in Abu Ghraib. It also said that requiring an accounting of the handling of prisoners "inappropriately intrudes" into the president's powers. Intrudes? Yes. Inappropriately? No.
Michael Froomkin of Discourse.net explains why the Leahy amendment is no cause for celebration here.

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