Excuse me if I don't join the NYT editorial board in its cheers for the Senate's Vote to require the administration to account for all the prisoners it has captured abroad, and to turn over information about US military prisons to the Red Cross, and to comply with the Geneva conventions.
This cheering is wrong on multiple levels.
First, the Senate's action comes just a little late. The administration was able to invade Iraq because Congress didn't do its job in asking questions and holding it to account. And news about problems in the prisons is hardly new. There were rumors of trouble long before the infamous photos. One can argue about whether the legislature was on notice before they emerged. But there's no question that they have been on notice for weeks, yet this vote comes only in the shadow of the Supreme Court's reassertion of long-standing verities of separation of powers.
Notably, the Senate's resolution requires nothing significant beyond what likely would happen anyway as a result of the Supreme Court's recent decisions.
And, the Senate's action is limited to military prisons, leaving the CIA gulag in the shadows.
Last, but not least, Art. VI, Clause 2 of the US Constitution reads,
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
It shouldn't require legislative action to compel the President to take care that the “supreme Law of the Land” be observed, and indeed I wonder if it could be a bad precedent to even suggest in any way that but for legislative action the President ought to feel any freedom of action to unilaterally disregard fundamental norms of international law such as the Geneva conventions.
I'll cheer when the legislature starts investigating the CIA's network of interrogation camps. Does anyone ever get out alive?