a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Stevens’ grave threat to McCain amendment’s intent

Posted by Thomas Nephew on October 15th, 2005

Writing at “Balkinization,” human rights law expert Marty Lederman warns about Senator Ted Stevens’ threat to agree to ‘guidance’ of the McCain amendment allowing cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under certain conditions. Lederman points out that if this, if carried out, would not just gut the McCain amendment, but practically reverse its intended effect:

But if Senator Stevens has his way, and successfully exempts the CIA from the McCain Amendment’s otherwise unequivocal ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the Congress will for the first time have ratified the Administration’s view that such cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is not uniformly off-limits, and will have given a green light to the CIA to engage in such conduct. Moreover, as explained above, that very unfortunate result would not be offset by any meaningful improvement in the law as it applies to the Armed Forces.

Accordingly, it is imperative that those Senators and Representatives supporting the McCain Amendment must resist any effort to “augment” the Amendment with a CIA carve-out.

Emphasis in original. Read Lederman’s whole post, which also recaps the shameful legal patchwork that John Yoo and his ilk have assembled in support of the indefensible.

UPDATE, 10/15: my e-mail to Senator Stevens, spell-checked and slightly elaborated.

Dear Senator Stevens,
I’m writing to urge you to
(1) include Senators who are proponents of the McCain amendment (prohibiting cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees by any American personnel anywhere in the world) in the House Senate Defense Appropriations conference committee;
(2) to not allow or advocate for ‘augmenting’ that amendment with any exceptions whatsoever;
(3) to forcefully advocate for this amendment with your House Defense Appropriations subcommittee counterparts.

I realize these positions may not reflect your current views, but I ask that you respect the views of the Senate as a whole, which as you know resoundingly passed the McCain amendment by a 90-9 vote.

I believe this law is very necessary to draw a bright line between the United States and actions which bring our country into disrepute, and bring us more enmity and foes than could be offset by any questionable information such treatment can provide. I urge you to reconsider your own personal position on this.

Thomas Nephew

You can improve on this. Please do.

5 Responses to “Stevens’ grave threat to McCain amendment’s intent”

  1. Nell Says:

    Thanks for posting your letter, Thomas. A spur to action. Go for it, vast army of readers! There’s plenty of time to compose and send; most Senators are still in the districts on Mondays, so real Senate action rarely gets underway before Tuesday. I recommend writing your letter, printing it, faxing it to the Congressman or Senator with the notation that the letter will follow by postal mail, then mailing it.
    That way your message carries the political weight of a letter, but arrives quickly. Postal mail to Congress is still slowed several extra days over ordinary mail because of the anthrax screening it undergoes.
    Fax numbers for all members can be found at, along with much other information (staff, district offices, etc.).

  2. eRobin Says:

    Okay. I wrote to Specter. Thanks for the push!

  3. Michael Keenan Says:

    My response to:
    Â?Generally, I believe the Geneva Conventions should apply to anyone who also abides by the Geneva Conventions,Â? by C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.
    And my response to Senator Stevens in general.
    “The Minds Limit Today”
    In Jean Amery’s, The Minds Limit, his capture and descent into torture by German NaziÂ?s, starts by pointing out that his torturers showed no Â?banality of evilÂ? in their faces. First there is the “laugh” and then the “first blow”. The prisoner then realizes that they are “helpless”. Lost is the Â?trust in the world.Â? Certainly there is no Â?mutual aid in nature.Â? No. It is time for the Â?business room.Â? But before describing his own torture the author makes Â?good on a promise I gave.Â? Not that they where not specialists in torture, but more so his conviction that Â?torture was the essence of Nationalist Socialism Â? more accurately stated, why it was precisely in torture that the Third Reich materialized in all the density of its being.Â?
    I ask you dear citizens should we also “codify” that the detainees at Camp Xray can also be children as recently reported in the news? Not only does that sound slightly like the rule of antiman but I do believe antichild included. And if that is so then the rule practiced as such has Â?expressly established it as a princple.Â? So just what else in “essence” does go on at Camp Xray Â? “tricks”? Plead mercy, pray tell? Refuse Himmlers offer for a Certificate of Maturity in History I would suggest. Nay, to forsake the Constitution and be depraved of our humanity would be more painful in the end Mr Rumsfeld. Slavery to torture is all you will get. Go tell that to the Marines Mr. Rumsfeld after you have tendered your resignation.
    I am Citizen Michael John Keenan
    p.s. I am considering on publicly awarding Certificates to the Nine Senators at our next city council meeting.

  4. Nell Says:

    I just spoke to a staffer in Sen. Stevens’ office. I was wrong: the Senate conferees are indeed ALL the members of the Defense subcommittee, as listed in your previous post. So, as I read it, an organized effort on the part of the non-Nazgul Senate conferees could hold firm on the McCain amendment. This gives many more people the chance to reach their own Senator.
    The message is clear: no changes to the McCain amendment. Our armed forces are asking for this clear guidance — let’s give it to them, and protect this country’s honor.
    The staffer also said she didn’t know who the House conferees were, so it sounds as if the committee won’t meet until tomorrow (Wednesday 19th) at the earliest. Time for action!

  5. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Thanks, Nell. Wow, actually asking someone over the phone. It’s… it’s like… I can’t think of the word… oh: “journalism.” 🙂

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