George W. Bush signed the Defense Appropriations Bill this past Friday which included the McCain Amendment forbidding cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees by U.S. personnel anywhere in the world.

But the President, in signing the bill, signaled a huge “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” that the mainstream media either missed or has chosen to ignore. We can thank Marty Lederman’s “Balkin Blogspot” for the important catch:

Monday, January 02, 2006

So Much for the President’s Assent to the McCain Amendment

Marty Lederman

…Most importantly, as to the McCain Amendment… the President wrote:

The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.

Translation: I reserve the constitutional right to waterboard when it will “assist” in protecting the American people from terrorist attacks. [UPDATE: Or, as Matthew Franck eagerly puts it over at the National Review, “the signing statement . . . conveys the good news that the president is not taking the McCain amendment lying down.”]…

WOW !!!

Slate’s Eric Umansky picked up on Lederman’s blog in “Today’s Papers”. He asks:

Anybody care to ask the White House whether, given the above language, it considers the government absolutely bound by McCain’s ban?

Good question, one that both the media and Senator McCain ought to be asking.

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