New York Times Editorial
Amid the shock and shame of the Abu Ghraib
prison scandal, President Bush vowed that the administration would
firmly rededicate the nation to upholding the United Nations'
convention against torture. So it was alarming to hear reports
from Capitol Hill that the administration supports a draconian
proposal to round up foreigners on mere suspicions and send them
home to nations notorious for engaging in torture and abuse. The
proposal is part of the House's omnibus bill for repairing the
national intelligence system - a retrogressive measure that prompted
the White House this week to claim to be embracing the Senate's
far more sensible version, which stays focused on intelligence
President Bush himself must make it clear
to Congress's Republican leaders that he does, indeed, stand behind
the U.N. convention, which bars the deportation of foreigners
to homelands found to torture and persecute dissenters. White
House officials insisted earlier this week that the administration
would oppose poison-pill attachments like this, which could undermine
the passage of real reform. But the office of the House speaker,
Dennis Hastert, told The Washington Post that the Justice Department
fully supports these powers, which would let officials arbitrarily
exile suspects who have not been tried or convicted of anything.
The burden of proof would be shifted unfairly to the person facing
deportation to offer "clear and convincing evidence"
that torture would result.
This provision, far from living up to the
president's anti-torture vow during the Iraqi prisoner scandal,
would undermine it. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds
of deportees could be persecuted. Even worse, the measure would
be retroactive, creating a fast disposal system for Afghan and
Iraqi detainees now wallowing in isolated cells. "If you
can't detain them indefinitely, you sure don't want them in America,"
a spokesman for Mr. Hastert, John Feehery, blithely explained
to The Post.