Bush seeks to protect war criminals


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Associated Press
Retroactive War Crime Protection Proposed
By PETE YOST , 08.09.2006, 08:25 PM

The Bush administration drafted amendments to the War Crimes Act that would 
retroactively protect policymakers from possible criminal charges for 
authorizing any humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees, according to 
lawyers who have seen the proposal.

The move by the administration is the latest effort to deal with treatment of 
those taken into custody in the war on terror.

At issue are interrogations carried out by the CIA, and the degree to which 
harsh tactics such as water-boarding were authorized by administration 
officials. A separate law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, applies to the 

The Washington Post first reported on the War Crimes Act amendments Wednesday.

One section of the draft would outlaw torture and inhuman or cruel treatment, 
but it does not contain prohibitions from Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions 
against "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading
treatment." A copy of the section of the draft was obtained by The Associated 

Another section would apply the legislation retroactively, according to two 
lawyers who have seen the contents of the section and who spoke on condition of 
anonymity because their sources did not authorize them to release the 

One of the two attorneys said that the draft is in the revision stage but that 
the administration seems intent on pushing forward the draft's major points in 
Congress after Labor Day.

"I think what this bill can do is in effect immunize past crimes. That's why 
it's so dangerous," said a third attorney, Eugene Fidell, president of the 
National Institute of Military Justice.

Fidell said the initiative is "not just protection of political appointees, but 
also CIA personnel who led interrogations."

Interrogation practices "follow from policies that were formed at the highest 
levels of the administration," said a fourth attorney, Scott Horton, who has 
followed detainee issues closely. "The administration is trying to insulate 
policymakers under the War Crimes Act."

The Bush administration contends Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions 
includes a number of vague terms that are susceptible to different 

Extreme interrogation practices have been a flash point for criticism of the 

When interrogators engage in waterboarding, prisoners are strapped to a plank 
and dunked in water until nearly drowning.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Congress "is aware of the dilemma we face, how
to make sure the CIA and others are not unfairly prosecuted."

He said that at the same time, Congress "will not allow political appointees to 
waive the law."

Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA's executive director, said that "President 
Bush is looking to limit the War Crimes Act through legislation" now that the 
Supreme Court has embraced Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. In June, the 
court ruled that Bush's plan to try Guantanamo Bay detainees in military 
tribunals violates Article 3.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press.

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