Please read this very, very important Newsweek story. As I feared, Gonzales' letter is not worth much.
Hastert's spokesman John Feehery said that Homeland Security had requested the extraordinary rendition provision, but "for whatever reason the White House has decided they don’t want to take this on because they’re afraid of the political implications.”
It's actually worse than I thought. It's not just a legal justification to keep doing what they've been doing. It's not justa way to get rid of the Maher Arar case. It still might have been a political ploy, but not only a political ploy. Torture outsourcing was going to be--still may be--the substitute for Guantanamo Bay after the Supreme Court decision:
He said the provision, mainly laid out in Section 3032 and 3033 , was designed as a way of addressing the problem created by last summer’s Supreme Court decision. The justices ruled that the administration couldn’t detain people indefinitely without trial or charges. As a result, the government has ordered the release of suspects such as Yaser Hamdi, a dual citizen of the United States and Saudi Arabia who was captured in Afghanistan and held for three years as an enemy combatant.
Now, Feehery said, “we’ve got a situation where we’ve got these people in the country who ought not to be in the country. We have to release them because of the Supreme Court case. So Homeland Security wanted this provision.”
The DOJ spokesman confirmed this:
Justice spokesman Mark Corallo also said it was Homeland Security’s call. “It’s their issue,” Corallo said. “They’re the immigration people now. Not us.”
The House is still pushing for the provision, and I'm sure the White House has no objection. They just need to keep a safe distance. They can't be allowed to. The press must ask Bush about this directly.
By the way, don't be misled by Feehery's language. He seems to imply that they're just talking about the current Guantanamo detainees, and they just want to take them back where they found them instead of releasing them on U.S. soil. But I can't see anything about Rasul that would require you to release Guantanamo prisoners on the U.S. mainland. It required some semblance of due process, nothing more. There is no legal obligation to admit those people into the U.S. And our current immigration laws, including the Torture Convention, give us plenty of leeway to deport people, and to detain them until we find a country that will take them.
If the detainee's home country practices torture, and we need them imprisoned and interrogated, there is still an option that complies with the Torture Convention. Markey's bill spells it out: we send them to Syria or Egypt, but we make them verify that the suspect is not being brutalized.