What a difference a little publicity makes! Newsweek's online edition reports that the Bush Administration has backed away from the torture bill, leaving its Congessional allies smarting.
As late as last week, attempts to take the provision out were being defeated on party-line votes in the House, and the bill was understood to be an Administration measure. But Katherine R at Obsidian Wings and Congressman Ed Markey made it impossible to sneak the "extraordiary rendition" clause into the intelligence reform bill quietly.
As a result, the White House Counsel is shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that someone has been trying to make the United States complicit in torture, and says so in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post:
A Sept. 30 front-page article inaccurately reported that the Bush administration supports a provision in the House intelligence reform bill that would permit the deportation of certain foreign nationals to countries where they are likely to be tortured.
The president did not propose and does not support this provision. He has made clear that the United States stands against and will not tolerate torture and that the United States remains committed to complying with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Consistent with that treaty, the United States does not expel, return or extradite individuals to countries where the United States believes it is likely that they will be tortured.
ALBERTO R. GONZALES
Counsel to the President
(Mr. Gorzales doesn't explain how the treatment of Meher Arar fits with that policy.)
The finger is being pointed at the Department of Homeland Security as the sponsor of the bill; apparently DoJ wants it known that it wasn't a Justice initiative, though last week the DoJ spokesgeek sounded pretty supportive.
The Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, who was playing cat's-paw to the White House on this one, isn't pleased. His spokesman said, "For whatever reason, the White House has decided they don't want to take this on because they âre afraid of the political implications."
That's right. The Speaker's guy just called the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief, a liar and a coward. Doesn't that sort of thing embolden our enemies? After all, you can't rally the troops with mixed messages.