The Bush administration objects to the clause in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions that prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard has been followed for more than a half-century by almost 190 countries, including the United States.
The War Crimes Act of 1996, passed by a Republican Congress, makes it a felony to violate the Geneva Conventions. But the Bush administration authorized techniques to handle and interrogate prisoners that clearly break the rules - like prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures, long periods in stress positions, strapping prisoners to metal contraptions and force-feeding them.
Bush wants Americans to believe that the language in Common Article 3 is too vague and makes fighting terrorism impossible. In fact, the Geneva standard is more specific than the shocks-the-conscience standard. The administration's real aim is to keep on using abusive interrogation techniques at the secret prisons run by the CIA. And it wants to make interrogators - and those who give their orders - immune from prosecution.