Over at the National Review Online they exult that the CIA torture program isn't just the president's project anymore. "Now it is just as much the program of Congress and of John McCain." Not quite right. Now it's the president's program that John McCain chooses not to know about.
And just to be completely certain, Congress is taking the courts down with it. No serious reader of the detainee-compromise bill can dispute that the whole point here is to sideline the courts. This bill immunizes some forms of detainee abuse and ignores others. It strips courts of habeas-corpus jurisdiction and denies so-called unlawful enemy combatants (a term that sweeps in citizens and noncitizens, Swiss grandmothers and Don Rumsfeld's neighbor if-that-bastard-doesn't-trim-his-hedge) the right to assert Geneva Convention claims in courts. Many detainees may never stand trial on the most basic question of whether they have done anything wrong. And courts will apparently now be powerless to do anything about any of this.
For the five years since 9/11, we have been in the dark in this country. This president has held detainees in secret prisons and had them secretly tortured using secret legal justifications. Those held in secret at Guantanamo Bay include innocent men, as do those who have been secretly shipped off to foreign countries and brutally tortured there. That was a shame on this president.
But passage of the new detainee legislation will be a different sort of watershed. Now we are affirmatively asking to be left in the dark. Instead of torture we were unaware of, we are sanctioning torture we'll never hear about. Instead of detainees we didn't care about, we are authorizing detentions we'll never know about. Instead of being misled by the president, we will be blind and powerless by our own choice. And that is a shame on us all.
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