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Bush reserves right to bypass torture ban in spending bill signing statement

[JURIST] A statement [JURIST document] made by President Bush when he signed the 2006 defense spending bill [JURIST report] last week allows Bush to bypass the law's ban on torture under his commander in chief powers, the Boston Globe reported Wednesday. A senior administration official told the Globe that Bush's comments could be used to justify the torture of a terror detainee under extreme circumstances, such as a "ticking bomb" scenario. The spending bill contains the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which incorporates the so-called McCain Amendment [JURIST document] banning the cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees and the so-called Graham-Levin Amendment [JURIST document], limiting habeas jurisdiction for claims by enemy combatants. In his signing statement, a routine document that explains the President's interpretation of new law, Bush said:

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. Further, in light of the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2001 in Alexander v. Sandoval, and noting that the text and structure of Title X do not create a private right of action to enforce Title X, the executive branch shall construe Title X not to create a private right of action.
The official who talked to the Globe explained that the administration considers the McCain Amendment to be good law [JURIST report], but that Bush meant to reserve the right to use harsher methods if national security was at stake. The official was quoted as saying that "the president has the obligation to follow this law, [but] he also has the obligation to defend and protect the country as the commander in chief, and he will have to square those two responsibilities in each case." Wednesday's Boston Globe has more.

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