Bush Junta says torture is okay -- as long as they do it.

In any civilised society, a proposal to ban the torture of prisoners would be uncontroversial. Not in Bush's America. Faced with a threatened presidential veto, the Senate showed some backbone and passed legislation that would outlaw the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone held by the US. In response, Vice-president Dick Cheney, proposed a change so that the law would not apply to operations abroad or those conducted by "an element" of the US government other than the defence department. In other words, the Bush Junta, along with the head of the CIA, wants the CIA to be exempted and so be allowed to torture whom they like.

"They are explicitly saying, for the first time, that the intelligence community should have the ability to treat prisoners inhumanely," Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. "You can't tell soldiers that inhumane treatment is always morally wrong if they see with their own eyes that CIA personnel are allowed to engage in it."

What a message to send the world! Sadly, making CIA torture official while lecturing others about human rights is amongst the least of the Bush Junta's many hypocrisies.

Still, if the motion does get passed the CIA will get round it, probably by continuing to outsource its torturing by transferring suspects to foreign intelligence agencies whose states have fewer qualms about torturing people. After all, the fact that it is currently illegal for the state to hold prisoners in such isolation in secret prisons in the US has not stopped the CIA placing them overseas. Nor has the fact that the CIA's internment practices are also illegal under the laws of several of the host countries stopped the activity. Just like the US, these countries have signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and yet US interrogators there are permitted to use the CIA's approved "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," some of which are prohibited by the U.N. convention and by U.S. military law.

One last thing. The CIA's most important secret prison is in Eastern Europe and is housed in a former Soviet-era "compound" (i.e. gulag). Such are the ironies of history.

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