Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Compromise Compromised

When is Sen. John McCain going to figure out that George W. Bush can't be trusted? The compromises in the detainee bill worked out last week have already been sabotaged by "re-working" over the weekend.

From the New York Times:

In one change, the original language said that a suspect had the right to “examine and respond to” all evidence used against him. Mr. Graham and his colleagues in resisting the White House, Senators John W. Warner of Virginia and John McCain of Arizona, had insisted that the provision was necessary to prevent so-called secret trials. The bill submitted late Monday dropped the word “examine” and left only “respond to,” reviving complaints about secret trials, this time from Democrats.

In another, the original compromise said that evidence seized “outside the United States” could be admitted in court even if it had been obtained without a search warrant, a provision Republicans and Democrats agreed was necessary to deal with the unusual circumstances of seizing evidence on the battlefield.

The bill introduced Monday dropped the words “outside the United States,” which Democrats said meant that prosecutors could ignore American legal standards on search warrants within the country. The bill also broadened the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant, from anyone “engaged in hostilities against the United States” to include anyone who “has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.”

“These are significant changes, not technical changes,” said Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, where the original bill backed by Senators Warner, McCain and Graham was approved. “It’s hard to know how to vote on a bill that’s this much in motion.”

Now the plan is to push the bill through before the election year recess so Bush can parade a "victory" before the voters. Here's the problem: we have a president who cannot tolerate dissent and lackeys who do everything possible to shield him from the real world. I don't think we should be handing him any more power to declare US citizens to be enemy combatants or to try them using secret evidence (although House Republicans say they will restore the word "examine", I'll believe it when I see it). Of course, it doesn't really matter how the bill reads; W will just include a signing statement that says whatever he wants it to say.

The same Republicans who are supporting the President now would be screaming in horror if a Democratic President asked for such power -- and so should all of us. I have no desire to live in a dictatorship, whether it comes through military coup or blind loyalty to a power-hungry bully.

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