Down, Maverick! Agreement on Interrogation

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Sep 21, 2006 4:43 PM

AP reports they've already agreed, but I got it in an e-mail. Will find the link in a minute. Here's the link:

The Bush administration and Senate Republicans announced agreement Thursday on terms for the interrogation and trial of suspects in the war on terror.

"I'm pleased we have agreement,'' said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, emerging from a session in his office where National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and key lawmakers reviewed the compromise.

Hadley called it a "framework for compromise,'' and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said he won't consider the agreement sealed until President Bush signs it.

Hmm, hard to read the signals. I wonder who moved toward whom.

Oh, here's McCain in a later version of the AP story:

"The agreement that we've entered into gives the president the tools he needs to continue to fight the war on terror and bring these evil people to justice," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of three rebellious GOP lawmakers who told Bush he couldn't have the legislation the way he initially asked for it.

"There's no doubt that the integrity and letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved," McCain said.

More from a later AP write-through:

One official said that under the agreement, the administration agreed to drop language that would have stated an existing ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment was enough to meet Geneva Convention obligations. Convention standards are much broader and include a prohibition on "outrages" against "personal dignity."

In turn, this official said, negotiators agreed to clarify what acts constitute a war crime. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he had not been authorized to discuss the details.

The agreement did not extend to a related issue _ whether suspects and their lawyers would be permitted to see any classified evidence in the cases against them.

McCain's gonna claim that no matter how things went down.

NYT echoes reports from earlier this week that the White House was blinking:

But over the weekend, in the face of the senators’ unexpectedly stout resistance, administration officials suddenly opened the door to compromise. Intricate negotiations ensued, and the White House reportedly dropped its insistence on redefining American obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

The White House has said that if interrogations are to go forward against suspects it says may possess information that could prevent planned attacks, it needs to clarify the Geneva limits on interrogation techniques.

Reuters knows nothing, pretty much. 

Update: Bush on TV now:

Allows interrogators to use harsh or coercive measures.

"I'm pleased to sy that this agreement preserves...the CIA program to question the world's most dangerous and get their secrets.

"Creates military commissions to bring these killers to justice."

Allows us to do what the American people expect-- capture, detain, questin, and try terrorists.

"I hope the Senate will send me good legislation before their business is done next week."

Update: The entire statement from the President:

I want to thank the members of the United States Senate for working with my administration to meet our top legislative priority, and that is a law that will help us crack the terror network and to save American lives.

I had a single test for the pending legislation, and that's this: Would the CIA operators tell me whether they could go forward with the program, that is a program to question detainees to be able to get information to protect the American people. I'm pleased to say that this agreement preserves the most single -- most potent tool we have in protecting America and foiling terrorist attacks, and that is the CIA program to question the world's most dangerous terrorists and to get their secrets.

The measure also creates military commissions that will bring these ruthless killers to justice. In short, the agreement clears the way to do what the American people expect us to do, to capture terrorists, to detain terrorists, to question terrorists, and then to try them. I hope the Congress will send me legislation before it wraps up their business next week.

Thank you.

Update: Allah reports that six techniques may be approved, but which six? There are two lists of six, one published by the Blotter; the other leaked to the Guardian.

The former includes waterboarding; the latter does not. So, is waterboarding acceptable?

I don't know, but either way, it sounds like the White House certainly didn't lose this round. If Bush did get most of what he wanted, McCain will act as if he got just what he needed, to save face. He won't be joining the Dems in condemning the Bushies after the deal's been made. He'll jump back in line and go back to re-courting the righties he ticked off this week.

This is where the Dems lose out by letting Republicans have a major national debate without them. Yes, we're infighting, but Republicans are making major policy decisions in the major conflict of our generation. Bush and McCain could both come out of this looking all right.

The Dems, on the other hand, are reduced to after-the-fact press releases, which only illustrate how little capacity they have for actually making such policies themselves. Voters will notice who is wrestling with this debate and making hard decisions, and it's not Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. I know they're in the minority, but sheesh, they made a conscious decision to sit this one out. Not sure that'll turn out to have been a good decision. 

Harry Reid:

"Democrats are united behind the need to work on a bipartisan basis to bring terrorists to justice, and to do it in a manner consistent with our laws, our values, and our national security. Hopefully, today's press conference means that President Bush and the congressional Republican leadership have changed course and listened to numerous national security experts such as General Colin Powell. Five years after 9/11, it is time to make the tough and smart decisions to give the American people the real security they deserve."

Strong, tough.