Thursday, October 21, 2004

An "Enhanced Tool"

Readers in Michigan no doubt are, or at least were, big fans of Home Improvement.  Starring Tim Allen, Home Improvement  was a comedy show.  Mr. Allen was born in Colorado, but grew up in Michigan.  He's a funny guy.  The refrain in his show was always: "more power." 

More power is fine when you need to drill a hole or saw some wood.  It is not always a good idea, though, when you are trying to run a country.  Especially when you need the trust of the People in order to get elected.

Congress is working on a bill to respond to the concerns raised in the 9/11 Commission Report.  Fine.  That's what we sent them to Washington for.  The bill has already made it through the Senate, with strong bilateral support.  According to the Boston Globe:
The cooperative atmosphere began to evaporate when the panel head, Representative Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced that Republican House negotiators had prepared a compromise proposal that Democrats said they had not been consulted on. Harman then accused the Republicans of pursuing a "take it or leave it" process.
Peter Hoekstra is another Michigander, but he's no comedian.  It is not funny when you announce a "compromise proposal," but did not consult the persons with whom you purportedly compromised.  It is even less funny when the "compromise" being offered includes a provision to legalize torture:

The original recommendations centered on establishing a powerful national intelligence director and a new counterterrorism center to coordinate intelligence gathering from multiple spy agencies. But one provision quietly added to the House bill would expand the ability of the United States to transfer terrorism suspects to countries other than the suspects' homeland for interrogation, where they could be exposed to treatment that is illegal in the United States, such as torture. [...]

"The torture provisions in the House bill make a mockery of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations," said Representative Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Malden and a member of the Homeland Security Committee. He added that the measure is "inconsistent with international treaties, and it is contrary to our nation's values." Markey was among 60 lawmakers who wrote to the negotiators yesterday urging them to drop the provision when drafting a final bill.
What is the response from the White House?

The White House describes this flexibility as an "enhanced tool" to wage the war on terrorism. But others think it violates the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Hmmm.  An "enhanced tool."  

This is completely unacceptable.  If House Republicans really are proud of this provision, if they really think it is a good idea, let them put it in a second bill, called the "Bill to Allow Torture," and put it to a vote.  Let's get the real 9/11 bill passed now, and work on the Bill to Allow Torture next month.  If they can get it passed, well, more power to them.