WASHINGTON - The Bush administration drafted amendments to the War Crimes Act that would retroactively protect policymakers from possible criminal charges for authorizing any humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees, according to lawyers who have seen the proposal.
"I think what this bill can do is in effect immunize past crimes. That's why it's so dangerous," said attorney Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice. Fidell said the initiative is "not just protection of political appointees, but also CIA personnel who led interrogations."
Interrogation practices "follow from policies that were formed at the highest levels of the administration," said attorney Scott Horton, who has followed detainee issues closely. "The administration is trying to insulate policymakers under the War Crimes Act."
Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA's executive director, said that "President Bush is looking to limit the War Crimes Act through legislation" now that the Supreme Court has embraced Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. In June, the court ruled that Bush's plan to try Guantanamo Bay detainees in military tribunals violates Article 3.