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Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Party of Barbarity 

Obsidian Wings has been running a remarkable series of posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) describing specific cases of "extraordinary rendition" (a/k/a outsourced torture -- the practice of exporting suspected terrorists to cooperative foreign jurisdictions where the legal restrictions on torture are less stringent than our own). As you know, GOP forces in Congress, with the backing of the White House and the DoJ, have inserted a provision that would legalize extraordinary rendition into the intelligence reform bill. Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), who is leading the fight to have the provision stricked, described it thus:
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....
From a letter Markey wrote last week to President Bush:
Mr. President, on June 22, 2004, following the revelations of the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, you made a strong statement condemning torture. At the time you stated:
"Let me make very clear the position of my government and our country. We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not part of our soul and our being."

Just yesterday a newspaper quoted a Justice Department spokesperson as saying that the Department supported thses provisions. In light of your strong statement against torture and the Justice Department's apparent endorsement of the provisions, I respectfully request your views on Sections 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10. In light of the impending House floor vote on this bill on the week of October 4th, I request that you please let the Congress know now--before the vote--where you stand on this issue, before we take up and approve a provision that would legitimize the outsourcing of torture to other countries.
Democratic attempts to alter the language of the bill have been blocked in committee on straight party-line votes, but Markey hopes to reintroduce his amendment on the floor of the house this week. Read the series and write your Congressperson.

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