A Wrinkle in the Intelligence Debate

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Last night, Democrats added a manager's amendment of their own to the 2010 intelligence authorization bill -- one that's left Republicans scrambling today.  It's called the "The Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Interrogation Act of 2010," and it would authorize criminal prosecution of intelligence officers who commit specified acts of torture and degrading techniques on detainees in their custody. 


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 -- Section 321. (Obama, like previous presidents, believes that the executive branch possesses the sole authority to decide what national security information is and how to protect it.)  The administration also has reservations about the prohibition on giving American authorities overseas the option to read captured terrorists Miranda rights. 

An administration official said that the White House "did not coordinate with Congress on the manager's amendment." 


Safe to say, the White House does not support the amendment. In effect, the amendment, added by intel committee chair Sylvester Reyes, would codify the illegality of the enhanced interrogation techniques that Justice Department lawyers in the Bush Administration found a legal basis for. (Liz Cheney, in a statement, noted that "[t[hese methods have further been found by the Department of Justice to be both legal and in keeping with our international obligations." Well, that doesn't mean they are legal or do keep faith with out international obligations. 

The Republican line is that Dems are siding with the detainees over the intelligence officers who protect America.
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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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