Interrrogating Suspects (09/22/06)

The cartoon is from Amnesty International’s annual report.

Yesterday, the White House and rebellious Senate Republicans announced an agreement on rules for the interrogation and trial of suspects in the war on terror. The Bush administration agreed to drop one provision narrowly interpreting international standards of prisoner treatment and another allowing defendants to be convicted on evidence they never see.  The president, however,  has the authority to enforce Geneva Convention standards and enumerates acts that constitute a war crime, including torture, rape, biological experiments and cruel and inhuman treatment.

Yesterday, the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees also gave Bush a victory when they  passed a measure to expand NSA  and other government surveillance powers.  Judiciary Republicans passed  Bush’s proposed rules for interrogating enemy combatants, after initially failing to muster enough votes.

Heather Wilson’s (R-NM)  House bill, H.R. 5825, The  Electronic Modernization Surveillance Act, would allow warrantless eavesdropping and searches of homes in the event of an “imminent threat” that involves loss of life, bodily harm or economic damage; and eliminate a requirement that all members of the Intelligence Committee be apprised of warrantless spying.

Democrats accuse the president and Republicans in Congress of playing politics with national security and attempting to cast Democrats as blocking measures to make the United States safer.

James X. Dempsey, Policy Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology appeared before the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security September 6 to testify on “Updating FISA.” 

The Administration, caught in its secret violation of FISA, is now seeking radical
changes in the law, changes that go farther even than ratifying the President’s program.

He cautions that the Wilson bill,

 appears to exclude data mining activities from coverage under the statute, and, given the breadth of warrantless surveillance permitted under the Wilson bill, amounts to a Total Information Act program, in which the government collects large amounts of data without court order, keeps it forever, and analyzes it at any time without court approval. The Specter bill does not include this definition.

He adds,

The most radical proposal is that of Chairman Specter, which would effectively gut FISA by repealing its exclusivity provision, making it merely optional for the Administration to seek a court order for electronic surveillance inside the United States against American The bill co-sponsored by Chairman Sensenbrenner, while it would preserve the nominal exclusivity of FISA, not only would ratify the President’s program of warrantless surveillance for foreign-to-US communications, but also would permit much more warrantless surveillance of purely domestic calls. The result would be to cast a cloud of constitutional uncertainty over what the Administration claims is a valuable tool in preventing terrorism.

 His talk includes his  critique of

  • H.R. 4976, the “NSA Oversight Act”
  • H.R. 5113, the “Fairness and Accountability in Reorganizations Act of 2006”
  • H.R. 5371, the “Lawful Intelligence and Surveillance of Terrorists in an Emergency by NSA Act”
  • H.R. 5825, the “Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act”
  • S. 2453, the “National Security Surveillance Act of 2006”
  • S. 2455, the “Terrorist Surveillance Act”





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