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While all the attention in Washington yesterday was focused on the posturing and pontificating over health care reform, there was something else going on. Democratic Congressman Sylvestre Reyes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, proposed an amendment to the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act. The amendment is called the Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Interrogation Prohibition Act of 2010 which, in essence, does nothing more than codify what already exists in Articles 1 and 16 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. You know that treaty which under Article VI of the Constitution is supposed to be the “supreme Law of the Land,” but was signed and ratified pre-9/11 so is no longer applicable, apparently.

The amendment prohibits such acts as waterboarding, beatings, sleep deprivation, and mock executions among others. In other words, pretty much the chart toppers on the Cheney/Ashcroft/Rumsfeld/Yoo/Bybee hit parade. It applies to any “U.S. national, or any officer, employee, contractor, or subcontractor of the Federal government,” with punishment for violation being “fine or imprisonment for not more than 15 years, or both,” unless death results. Then the imprisonment is “any term of years or for life.”

And right on cue, here came the torture defenders, led by Liz Cheney, playing the predictable “keeping us safe” card:

Late last night, Democrats in the House of Representatives inserted a provision dubbed “The Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Interrogation Act of 2010” into the intelligence authorization bill. This new language targets the US intelligence community with criminal penalties for using methods they have deemed necessary for keeping America safe. These methods have further been found by the Department of Justice to be both legal and in keeping with our international obligations.”

Sorry Liz, but just because they were found legal by the pretzel logic of Daddy’s Justice Department (and sadly, found to be merely “poor judgment” by the current Justice Department) doesn’t mean they are legal. It just means that laws and treaties have become an a la carte menu in post 9/11 America. We now pick and choose which ones to enforce and which ones to ignore. Again, sadly.

According to Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic, the amendment is also not popular at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (sigh):

“The White House isn’t happy; they’ve already threatened to veto the bill because it, in their mind, it infringes upon the rights of the executive branch by forcing the administration to disclose more about intelligence operations to more members of Congress.”

That sounds a lot like a previous administration to me. (Double sigh).

And speaking of right on cue, all House Republicans had to do was give the insinuation that they would accuse Democrats of being ‘soft on terror’ and ‘coddling terrorists’ and the gutless, spineless, Democratic leadership pulled the bill.