With the media and the country distracted yesterday by President Obama’s health care summit, House democrats tried to slip provisions into the intelligence authorization bill that would not only have criminalized a number of controversial interrogation tactics, an “includes but is not limited to” provision would have made anything done by a US interrogator allegedly “degrading” to a prisoner potentially punishable by imprisonment.
Faced with strong Republican opposition and fearing the reaction of the public, the House leadership backed off and removed the entire bill from consideration.
[Intelligence committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) added language, originally offered by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.)] into the intelligence authorization bill that would establish criminal punishment for CIA agents and other intelligence officials who engage in â€œcruel, inhuman and degrading treatmentâ€ during interrogations.
Democrats inserted an 11-page addition into the bill late Wednesday night as the House Rules Committee considered the legislation.
The provision, previously not vetted in committee, applied to â€œany officer or employee of the intelligence communityâ€ who during interrogations engages in beatings, infliction of pain or forced sexual acts. The bill said the acts covered by the provision would include inducing hypothermia, conducting mock executions or â€œdepriving the [detainee] of necessary food, water, sleep, or medical care.â€
The language gave Congress the discretion to determine what the terms mean, and it would have imposed punishments of up to 15 years in prison, and in some cases, life sentences if a detainee died as a result of the interrogation.
Andrew McCarthy explains just how far the language went:
The provision is impossibly vague â€” who knows what â€œdegradingâ€ means? Proponents will say that they have itemized conduct that would trigger the statute (Iâ€™ll get to that in a second), but it is not true. The proposal says the conduct reached by the statute â€œincludes but is not limited toâ€ the itemized conduct. (My italics.) That means any interrogation tactic that a prosecutor subjectively believes is â€œdegradingâ€ (e.g., subjecting a Muslim detainee to interrogation by a female CIA officer) could be the basis for indicting a CIA interrogator. …
Waterboarding is not all. The Democratsâ€™ bill would prohibit â€” with a penalty of 15 yearsâ€™ imprisonment â€” the following tactics, among others:
– â€œExploiting the phobias of the individualâ€
– Stress positions and the threatened use of force to maintain stress positions
– â€œDepriving the individual of necessary food, water, sleep, or medical careâ€
– Forced nudity
– Using military working dogs (i.e., any use of them â€” not having them attack or menace the individual; just the mere presence of the dog if it might unnerve the detainee and, of course, â€œexploit his phobiasâ€)
– Coercing the individual to blaspheme or violate his religious beliefs (I wonder if Democrats understand the breadth of seemingly innocuous matters that jihadists take to be violations of their religious beliefs)
– Exposure to â€œexcessiveâ€ cold, heat or â€œcramped confinementâ€ (excessive and cramped are not defined)
– â€œProlonged isolationâ€
– â€œPlacing hoods or sacks over the head of the individualâ€
Naturally, all of these tactics are interspersed with such acts as forcing the performance of sexual acts, beatings, electric shock, burns, inducing hypothermia or heat injury â€” as if all these acts were functionally equivalent. …
Democrats are saying they would prefer to see tens of thousands of Americans die than to see a KSM subjected to sleep-deprivation or to have his â€œphobias exploited.”