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Durbin Anti-Torture Measure Included in Spending Bill

The $82 billion Iraq spending bill unanimously passed yesterday by the Senate contains an anti-torture provision sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL).

Congress barred the government on Tuesday from using any money in a newly passed emergency spending bill to subject anyone in American custody to torture or "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" that is forbidden by the Constitution.

....This sends a clear message to our own government that certain conduct is simply unacceptable," Senator Richard J. Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who sponsored the provision, said in an interview. "And it reminds the world that what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison is not American policy and is not tolerated."

Last year the White House and Justice Department opposed including such a measure in the spending bill because it applied to C.I.A. agents in foreign countries. Yesterday, there was no objection, possibly because the bill did not include a specific mention of C.I.A. agents.

Instead, it says that no money appropriated in the bill can be used "to subject any person in the custody or under the physical control of the United States to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States."

It's unclear whether the provision could be made applicable to C.I.A. agents or to the practice of rendition.

Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who sponsored a version of the provision in the House, said that in his view the measure effectively banned renditions if military financing provided by the bill was involved. Other officials said the issue was not so clear-cut.

Human rights groups seem satisfied with the provision:

...the measure approved Tuesday drew no distinction between American citizens and foreign prisoners in forbidding cruel, unusual or inhuman treatment that is prohibited by the 5th, 8th and 14th amendments to the Constitution.

[Human Rights First Director Elisa]Massimino said the exemption cited by Mr. Gonzales was "a pretty big loophole, and this measure in Congress is a step toward herding the administration back toward the rule of law."

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  • Re: Durbin Anti-Torture Measure Included in Spendi (none / 0) (#1)
    by The Heretik on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:58:58 PM EST
    Congress barred the government on Tuesday from using any money in a newly passed emergency spending bill to subject anyone in American custody to torture or "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" that is forbidden by the Constitution. I want to say this will make me forget about the National ID card/driver's license shame included in the same bill, but I don think it will. I want to say this reassurance means money as capital won't be spent on torture, but I don't think I can. We have laws on the books forbidding torture that our government has already violated freely and willfully. In the process we have lost a fortune of moral capital that will take a long time to regain. When I see an amendment like this, I think of the Bolland Amendment, of Iran Contra. Then I look at our government. Elliot Abrams in the Mid East. Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence. And I think: Iran Contra. Oy. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Re: Durbin Anti-Torture Measure Included in Spendi (none / 0) (#2)
    by DavidDvorkin on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:58:58 PM EST
    Absolutely right, TheHeretik. Such amendments and clauses are intended only to provide political cover and an excuse for preening. They have no effect on government actions, nor does anyone expect them to. The underlying problem remains the lack of a free press and the lack of public outrage. There's no sign that I can see of a change in either of those.

    Durbin is a nice guy, but he is really a wanker on this one. While he is at it, why not put a postage stamp inside every pistol, so criminals can send their guns to the police after they commit crimes? It would really help out. While murdering tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in a Lie-for-Profit illegal invasion, make sure not to torture some of them. PLEASE! (and the tiny little bird in the bottom corner says: 'They ought to know better.')

    Paul in La..LA The blog is about an anti-torture spending bill.... But.... While murdering tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in a Lie-for-Profit illegal invasion,... I rest my case Paul.... (but you're not stuck in a rut ...)

    Anti-torture spending bill? That's hilarious. It's a clause, a meaningless clause, inserted into more billions for TORTURING the entire Iraqi population into submission. You 'rest your case' as if you have some sort of argument underway. And, as always with you sick cats, it's bait and switch, it's change your mind later, it's, OK, you'll admit it: KILL THEM ALL. KILL THEM ALL is the basic racism of your perspective. So why are you trying to sound reasonable?