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Bush and the 'Third Awakening'

Arm Twisting

Laurie Kellman writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush is trying to break an election-season deadlock with congressional Republicans over bills that would give the White House broad authority to monitor, interrogate and prosecute terrorism suspects.

"Senators and House leaders want to impose new restrictions on the administration, saying they won't give the president a blank check over the war on terror.

"A parade of White House officials seeking support for legal tools against terrorists is expected to culminate Thursday with an appearance by Bush himself before House Republicans anxious to maintain their majority in the November elections."

Charles Babington writes in The Washington Post: "Vice President Cheney urged Republican senators yesterday not to be too restrictive in setting legal limits on CIA interrogations of enemy combatants, the largest remaining barrier to an agreement between Congress and the White House on legislation that would also set new rules for special military trials for terrorist suspects.

"Cheney and White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten met for an hour with GOP senators in hopes of narrowing their differences over proposed legislation governing the treatment, questioning and prosecution of suspected terrorists and enemy combatants, such as those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"Afterward, key senators said they had made progress on several fronts, including the use of secret information against defendants and guidelines for handling allegedly coerced statements. The biggest sticking point, they said, was how narrowly to define practices that might subject CIA interrogators or others to charges of committing war crimes."

Bush touched on the issue in that Oval Office interview yesterday. From Lowry and O'Beirne : "Asked about the interrogation controversy, he said legislation should outline 'clearly what is acceptable and provide liability protection so interrogators will feel protected going forward.' He was emphatic that people should understand that 'as long as the War Crimes Act hangs over their heads, they [interrogators] will not take the steps necessary to protect' Americans."

Massimo Calabresi writes for Time that "some Senators and legal experts see another reason for the heightened concern at the White House. On paper, at least, White House officials and CIA officers could be vulnerable to prosecution for past or future use of illegal methods of interrogation -- unless Congress changes the law. . . .

"It's hard to see how the methods the administration authorized for use against some of their detainees could not have violated the Geneva conventions. Common article 3 of the conventions prevents any 'outrages on the personal dignity' of detainees. Among the highlights of the administration's approved techniques -- waterboarding, wherein a prisoner is made to believe he is drowning; intimidation using dogs; stripping of prisoners; and so on."

Warrantless Wiretapping

Also on the Hill, a handful of House Republicans have been supporting a few modest checks and balances on the administration's ability to eavesdrop without a warrant. But now the Republican House leadership has dropped the axe.

Jonathan Weisman writes in The Washington Post: "House leaders moved yesterday to temper many of the controls that a bill headed toward rapid passage would have imposed on the Bush administration's program for wiretapping terrorism suspects without court approval. . . .

"Republican leaders, in the midst of an increasingly angry attack on Democrats over defense matters, made it clear that they will not challenge President Bush's authority in matters of national security as they challenge their opponents' commitment to fighting terrorism."

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