Those of you who faithfully read this blog only need to know this: the Graham Amendment, the one all set to undo Rasul and kiss habeas corpus goodbye, just got worse. Forget all the press about John McCain's heroic stand on torture (where were you when Gonzales was confirmed, sir?) - in the dead of night, that gnarly little amendment says, basically, that all such declarations are moot: evidence from torture can still be used as evidence in military tribunals. Contact your Senators now, especially if (as for New Yorkers) they're on one of the relevant committees: tell them to refuse, if necessary, to sign the conference committee report.
How do we know all this? Because they love it. Thanks as always, Hilzoy, for pointing out that
According to an amended draft of the measure being circulated Thursday among the sponsors, Graham has agreed to language that loosens the restrictions on terror evidence that’s obtained through “coercive” interrogations that may occur in other countries. Whereas Graham’s previous draft had forbidden the use of such evidence—in accordance with standard rules of military justice—the new draft says that it should be barred only “to the extent practicable.” The latest bill language also now says that the “probative value” of evidence should be considered—in other words, whether the information is persuasive.
In theory, this would permit U.S. military tribunals to use evidence obtained through torture or abuse in the prisons of other countries. The new Graham draft also adds more restrictions on the rights of terror detainees to sue or launch an action against the U.S. government outside of a narrow appeals process.
This past Friday night, at the holiday party of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, I was both amazed and completely unsurprised to learn that even those you might most expect to know about this, the human-rights-journalist crowd, knew nothing about it. "How could this happen?" they asked over and over of Bahar Azmy, attorney for Murat Kurnaz, who outlined the evisceration of habeas, and of Hina Shamai of Human Rights First. "This is America!"
After a while, the crowd --which included my friend Sheri Fink, the amazing Samantha Power , and the equally amazing IWPR editor Stacy Sullivan, who is also my Columbia bodishattva -- went back to well-deserved partying at the unbelievable New York pied-a-terre of Greg Carr, the human rights billionaire and founder of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. (The gods must believe in human rights, to award not one but two penthouse terrace apartments, in two cities. At the very least, they believe in the Internet.)
I hope that among their otherwise essential projects, one or two of those present got exercised enough to write an op-ed, or some other more high-profile piece that shines a light on this stuff before it's too late. Jeanne, as usual, says most elegantly why this is so urgent, and throws it back at McCain:
Post McCain (and Graham) we will be far worse off then we were before McCain started flinging around nice, empty words about "our commitment to basic humanitarian values." We will be a country in which people can be imprisoned based on information obtained through torture, which they can't challenge.
And we're in an emergency situation, because , as Nell usefully pointed out when commenting on Jeanne's post, these atrocities have become easier and easier as the neocons strangle democracy:
Just one example: In addition to last-minute changes, Republicans on conference committees often allow no meaningful discussion or votes while the Democratic members are present; they go into separate session, make the decisions, and present the results as a done deal. Under the current system, the only way to stop any of this is for Democrats on a conference committee to refuse to sign the conference report, making it impossible for the bill to move to final passage. Do I have to say how unlikely this is to happen with the defense spending bill?
None of this will change until Dems retake both houses, and we get Congressional leadership more interested in advancing the country's well-being than that of the executive branch.
Which is why I will shut up now, and ask everyone to call or email their senators. For more detailed information on the amendment and its history, go to Katherine and Hilzoy's heroic work here. Next time, I'll give more info on what I've been working on, since I can be definitively said to have survived the first half of boot camp.
And now I get to find out to follow around my young veteran, on his
first Christmas week since he came home from Iraq chock-full of bad