Thanks to the recent "compromise" between the hard-core torturers in the Bush administration and "moderate" Republican torture opponents, we continue to live in a country that does not officially endorse the infliction of "severe pain." That would be torture, you see. "Serious pain," however, is fine. That's merely cruel and degrading treatment. (The president used to be against that, too, but, well, things change.)
As the congressional Republicans march in lockstep behind the White House's torture agenda, they don't even know the composition of that agenda. The Boston Globe reported Saturday that 90 percent of members of Congress don't know "which interrogation techniques have been used in the past, and none of them know which ones would be permissible under proposed changes to the War Crimes Act." Which is to say: In practice, absolutely everything would be permitted, since the only people capable of overseeing the interrogation program haven't done it, won't do it and have no intention of doing it in the future.