Detainee Abuse Finished? Not Quite.

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Good news: The Senate voted 90-9 yesterday to pass John McCain’s amendments which would “define and limit interrogation techniques that U.S. troops may use against terrorism suspects.” Good, and that could go some ways to curbing abuses, depending on potential loopholes, but I’m a bit suspicious here. Why would the majority of Republicans vote to restrict torture; they’ve never shown any such inclination before. (Look what happened to the Markey Amendment in the House: similar anti-torture provision, defeated by a majority of the House GOP.) The cynical guess here is that the Senate Republicans who voted for thing feel confident that Dennis Hastert and the House leadership will quietly strip McCain’s provision out of the final bill when it goes to conference. So everyone can feel good about voting on the record to oppose torture without their votes having any actual consequences. Or as a last resort, Bush can just veto the bill—maybe as a way of boosting his poll numbers among the Rush Limbaugh set. Or perhaps get some favorable Supreme Court ruling, with John Roberts and Harriet Miers in tow, to do whatever he feels like. The battle against torture is far, far from over.

UPDATE: Jack Balkin has the full text of the amendment, and it’s much more sweeping than anything else yet passed. It applies to all U.S. personnel, not just the Department of Defense (thus closing the “CIA loophole”), and prohibits “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” anywhere in the world.

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