The AP Spins Out of Control

Today the administration declassified, and made available to reporters, a number of documents intended to show that President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did not authorize torturing al Qaeda prisoners. The Associated Press, perhaps the number one source of media bias, reports on the documents, in an article titled “Bush Claimed Right to Waive Torture Laws.” The AP article begins:

President Bush claimed the right to waive anti-torture laws and treaties covering prisoners of war after the invasion of Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized guards to strip detainees and threaten them with dogs, according to documents released Tuesday.

You have to read deep into the article to find out the following:

Bush outlined his own views in a Feb. 7. 2002, document regarding treatment of al-Qaida detainees from Afghanistan. He said the war against terrorism had ushered in a “new paradigm” and that terrorist attacks required “new thinking in the law of war.” Still, he said prisoners must be treated humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
“I accept the legal conclusion of the attorney general and the Department of Justice that I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan, but I decline to exercise that authority at this time,” the president said in the memo, entitled “Humane Treatment of al-Qaida and Taliban Detainees.”

Rumsfeld, too, authorized only the mildest forms of interrogation of prisoners, even al Qaeda leaders. I found this paragraph, near the end of the AP’s account, astonishing:

[Rumsfeld] approved 24 interrogation techniques, to be used in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions, but said that any use of four of those methods would have to be approved by him in advance. Those four were use of rewards or removal of privileges from detainees; attacking or insulting the ego of a detainee; alternating the use of friendly and harsh interrogators, and isolation.

I hate to disillusion liberals, but as a trial lawyer, I routinely use two of those four techniques in cross-examining witnesses, and I use at least one of the other two on my children. Frankly, I find it appalling that those in charge of terrorist prisoners may only “reward or remove privileges from detainees” with the permission of the Secretary of Defense. If the Democrats had any sense, they would argue that these documents indict the administration as soft on terrorists.
That won’t be the Democrats’ tack, however:

“Though this is a self-serving selection, at least it is a beginning,” [Democratic Senator Patrick] Leahy said. “But for the Judiciary Committee and the Senate to find the whole truth, we will need much more cooperation and extensive hearings.”

Extensive hearings. Right. From now until November.

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