From Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith of The Nation:
Thousandsof well-meaning people are mobilizing to pressure Congress to pass legislation banning torture. But the Bush Administration is maneuvering to turn it intol egislation that would instead protect the torturers by eliminating a basic legal right. To stop them, torture opponents will need to be not just as innocent as doves but also as cunning as foxes.
When Congress returns to Washington on Monday, a campaign will unfold in support of Senator JohnMcCain's legislation banning torture, which is attached to a defense bill.But McCain's amendment is accompanied by one from Senator Lindsey Graham that bans the appeals that prisoners at Guantánamo have used to take theircases to civilian courts.
From WaPo's Josh White:
Thedefense authorization bill approved by Congress this week includes landmarkprotections for military detainees suspected of terrorist activities fromabuse or mistreatment at the hands of their U.S. captors.
But themeasure awaiting President Bush's signature also would limit the access ofdetainees held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to federal courts.And it would allow the military to use confessions elicited by torture whendeciding whether a detainee is an enemy combatant.
SusanBaker Manning, a lawyer representing a group of ethnic Uighur detainees atGuantanamo Bay, said she believes the legislation is unconstitutional. Shewarned that it could create a legal bubble of sorts around the prison thatwould allow the government to do what it wants behind closed doors.
"We'relooking at cutting off access and information about what our executive branchis up to," Manning said, adding that nine detainees who have been clearedfor release are still being held in Cuba. "They are trying to isolate GuantanamoBay."
Other lawyers are concerned that such isolation could mean badthings for U.S. citizens captured by foreign governments. David P. Sheldon,a Washington lawyer and military law expert, said the implications "are stunning."
"What ability would the U.S. have to challenge, in foreign courts, the detainment of Americans who are overseas?" Sheldon said.