Earlier this week, the Senate passed a bill which, as far as anyone can tell, (1) gives the Executive the power to detain anyone indefinitely without charge, and (2) grants the Executive branch the power to determine whether a given interrogation technique is torture. I would like to go on the record as being strongly opposed to this. While it may not be unconstitutional, it is certainly contrary to the principles on which the Union was founded.
To my further disgust, both my senators—Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez—voted for the bill. (To their credit, they also voted for the failed amendment to preserve Habeas Corpus, the right of prisoners to be told the charges against them.) I can see only two reasons for this. Either they honestly believe this bill was a good thing, or they are concerned that the Republicans would use a nay vote to paint them as “soft on terror”.
Neither option is particularly flattering. It’s never a good situation when the best case explanation for a vote is cynical politics. On the other hand, being pro-torture is much, much worse.
I’d like to re-emphasize that. This is the year 2006 and the United States of America is passing bills that effectively authorize torture and arbitrary detention.
Just to add one more galling aspect, this November I’ll be voting for Senator Menendez. Not because I respect him—I don’t know if I’ll ever respect anyone who voted for this bill—but because I don’t want Thomas Kean, Jr, to win. This vote was primarily an attempt by the Republicans to demonize Democrats and demoralize their voters. No matter how upset I am at Senators Menendez and Lautenberg, I know it’s more important to take at least one house of Congress from the Republican party.