Army Tries To Block McCain’s Anti-Torture March?

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Apparently, a draft of a “new” guide to interrogation methods has leaked from the Army and some speculate (including a top-level McCain aide) that the anti-torture Senator will not be pleased.

From the NY Times:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 – The Army has approved a new, classified set of interrogation methods that may complicate negotiations over legislation proposed by Senator John McCain to bar cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees in American custody, military officials said Tuesday.

The techniques are included in a 10-page classified addendum to a new Army field manual that was forwarded this week to Stephen A. Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence policy, for final approval, they said.

The addendum provides dozens of examples and goes into exacting detail on what procedures may or may not be used, and in what circumstances. Army interrogators have never had a set of such specific guidelines that would help teach them how to walk right up to the line between legal and illegal interrogations.

Some military officials said the new guidelines could give the impression that the Army was pushing the limits on legal interrogation at the very moment when Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, is involved in intense three-way negotiations with the House and the Bush administration to prohibit the cruel treatment of prisoners.

In a high-level meeting at the Pentagon on Tuesday, some Army and other Pentagon officials raised concerns that Mr. McCain would be furious at what could appear to be a back-door effort to circumvent his intentions.

Listen, everybody in Washington (and connected with Washington) is keenly aware of what McCain is trying to do to restore our military’s credibility. Given that, one can’t help but wonder why the Army would put out such a document at this time? Is it a shot across McCain’s bow? Is this a clear signal from the leaders within our armed forces that they want more options on the table?

Here’s some more drama:

Mark Salter, Mr. McCain’s chief of staff, said that the Army and Pentagon had not briefed his boss or other aides on the contents of the manual or its addendum.

He warned that if the interrogation techniques in the addendum were overly aggressive, they could complicate the talks Mr. McCain continued on Tuesday with Stephen J. Hadley, President Bush’s national security adviser.

“This is politically obtuse and damaging,” Mr. Salter said in a telephone interview. “The Pentagon hasn’t done one molecule of political due diligence on this.”

Larry Di Rita, the Defense Department spokesman, said Pentagon officials had not yet told Mr. Hadley about the contents of the classified addendum and any political implications it might pose to discussions with Mr. McCain. Mr. Di Rita said the Pentagon meeting on Tuesday was simply to review the status of the field manual and related detention policies.

“The field manual is not finished,” he said. “We’re mindful of the negotiations going on with the White House and Congressional committees on Senator McCain’s language.”

Personally, I don’t think this will make a bit of difference in the long run. McCain’s amendment has momentum, and regardless of what documents come out at the 11th hour, he’s going to get it, or some reasonable version of it, passed. Most everybody now realizes that the consequences of rejecting it is too great.

Still, I’d like to get a look at those new guidelines…

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