The Undoing Begins

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Tuesday, July 11, 2006; 1:36 PM

Today's dramatic announcement from the White House that U.S. detainees are covered by the Geneva Convention is the first of what may be several major policy reversals forced by the recent Supreme Court decision curbing President Bush's assertion of nearly unlimited executive power in a time of war.

Anne Plummer Flaherty writes for the Associated Press: "The Bush administration said Tuesday that all detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in U.S. military custody everywhere are entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions.

"White House spokesman Tony Snow said the policy, outlined in a new Defense Department memo , reflects the recent 5-3 Supreme Court decision blocking military tribunals set up by President Bush. That decision struck down the tribunals because they did not obey international law and had not been authorized by Congress. . . .

"Snow insisted that all U.S. detainees have been treated humanely. Still, he said, 'We want to get it right.'

" 'It's not really a reversal of policy,' Snow asserted, calling the Supreme Court decision 'complex.' "

It's almost like Dana Priest saw this coming. She writes in The Washington Post this morning: "Five years after the attacks on the United States, the Bush administration faces the prospect of reworking key elements of its anti-terrorism effort in light of challenges from the courts, Congress and European allies crucial to counterterrorism operations. . . .

"Accustomed to having its way on matters related to the nation's security, the administration is being forced to respond to criticism that it once brushed aside. . . .

" 'The Bush doctrine of "trust us" is being questioned by the courts, Congress and the country, which is insisting on changing and strengthening their involvement,' said former congressman Timothy J. Roemer (D-Ind.), a member of the independent commission that studied the Sept. 11 attacks."

But will the new official adherence to the Geneva Conventions actually change anything? Maybe not, if the administration continues to be allowed to define its own terms in private.

Wilkerson's Questions

I've written several times before about Larry Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to secretary of state Colin Powell.

In October , he went public with his observation that a secret cabal led by the vice president had hijacked U.S. foreign policy, inveigled the president, condoned torture and crippled the ability of the government to respond to emergencies.

In November , he said that he had documented a paper trail tracing the practice of prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers directly back to Vice President Cheney's office.

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