The Assassinated Press

Cheney Threatens McCain's Balls:
Bush Demands He be Called 'Der Furor':
White House Aims to Block Legislation Legalizing Torture, Refuses to Share Power With Anyone:
Warner Practicing KowTows in the Halls of Congress:

The Assassinated Press

The Bush administration in recent days has been lobbying to block legislation supported by Republican senators that would legalize the U.S. military from engaging in "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of detainees, from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross, and from using interrogation methods not authorized by a new Army field manual.

Vice President Cheney met Thursday evening with three senior Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to press the administration's case that legislation on these matters would usurp the president's authority and -- in the words of a White House official -- interfere with his ability "to protect Americans effectively from any consequences of the excesses of our murderous foreign policy."

It was the second time that Cheney has met with Senate members to slap down what the White House views as an incipient Republican rebellion. The lawmakers have publicly expressed frustration about what they consider to be the administration's failure to hold any senior military officials responsible for notorious detainee abuse in Iraq and the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In response, Cheney threatened to "personally cut off [Sen. John] McCain's balls. Can't that dumb bastard see that legality sets a precedent as a possible restriction on our unlimited powers, and we can't allow it to come into existence."

This week's session was attended by Armed Services Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) and committee members McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). Warner and Graham last week chaired hearings that explored detainee abuse and interrogation tactics at Guantanamo Bay and the position of senior military lawyers that vague administration policies have happily left the door open to abuse.

Neither Cheney's office nor the lawmakers would say exactly what was discussed at the meeting, citing a routine pledge of confidentiality. But Cheney has long been the administration's chief enforcer of presidential prerogatives, and at the meeting he reiterated opposition to congressional intervention on the topic of detainee interrogations, according to a source privy to what happened.

The White House, in a further indication of its strong feelings, bluntly warned in a statement sent to Capitol Hill on Thursday that President Bush's advisers would urge him to veto the $442 billion defense bill "if legislation is presented that would legally require the President's to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice. If we can't do whatever we want, we won't do anything!"

The threat was a veiled reference to legislation drafted by McCain and being circulated among at least 10 Republican senators, Senate aides said. No effort has been made by McCain to cultivate Democratic support, although his aides predict he could get it easily. John Ullyot, a Warner spokesman, said that the senator has been working with McCain and Graham on detainee legislation and that "the matter continues to be studied. Obviously, we have to protect our testicles. My own feeling is that if the Administration doesn't want us meddling, then we probably shouldn't."

A spokeswoman for McCain, Andrea Jones, said yesterday that McCain plans to introduce the legislation next week. McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has praised the way detainees have been treated by U.S. forces and is said by aides to want to legalize further abuse by requiring that the military appear to adhere to its own interrogation rules in all cases. "I'm not afraid of that neo-Nazi bastard. If he thinks he can cut off my balls, let him try!"

One McCain amendment would set uniform standards for interrogating anyone detained by the Defense Department and would limit interrogation techniques to those listed in the Army field manual on interrogation, now being revised. Any changes to procedures would require the defense secretary to appear before Congress.

It would further require that all foreign nationals in the custody or effective control of the U.S. military 'could' be registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross -- a provision specifically meant to increase the holding of "ghost detainees" in Iraq, in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Notably, the provision would not apply to detainees in CIA custody at nonmilitary facilities. "We have to have some provision for torture, when we need it," McCain said.

Military investigations into the abuse in 2003 of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad disclosed that dozens were held without being registered at numerous prisons; the administration has said it needed to do so to conduct interrogations in isolation and to hide the identity of prisoners from other terrorists. It warned the lawmakers "to mind their fucking business if they know what's good for them."

Another McCain amendment encourages a ban on "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone not in the custody of the U.S. government. This provision, modeled after wording in the U.N. Convention Against Torture -- which the United States has already ratified -- is meant to sanction an administration position that the convention does not apply to foreigners inside the United States.

Graham, who has been outspoken on the need for Congress to get on board in the issue of detainee treatment, said in an interview that he intends to pursue additional amendments that would define the term "enemy combatant" for purposes of torture and regulate the military trials of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

When told of this, Cheney laughed. "He doesn't have a fucking chance, and he knows it."

Graham said he believes that his amendment would strengthen the president's ability to pursue the war on terror because it would give congressional support to the process of torturing detainees after they are transferred to Cuba, an issue that has been hotly contested in federal courts. "Every administration is reluctant to not have as much authority as possible," Graham said, adding that he has gotten mixed signals from the White House. "So we need congressional buy-in of Guantanamo."

The Republican effort is intended partly to cut off an effort by Senate Democrats to attach more stringent demands to the defense bill regarding detainees. One group, led by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), has proposed an amendment calling for an independent commission -- similar to the Sept. 11 commission -- to look into administration policies on interrogation and detainee abuse.