Republicans continue their cynical game playing the terrorism card in an attempt to get voter support for their candidates in the upcoming election. They continue to manufacture legislation to generate votes that they can use in attack ads challenging their opponents.
The terrorism game for Republicans emerges as an attempt to draw public attention away from the failures of the Bush Administration and Republican controlled Congress in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The House in a 253 to 168 vote approved Bush’s bill for interrogating and trying terrorist suspects. Immediately the Republican Majority Leader Boehner said “It’s outrageous that House Democrats, at the urging of their leaders, continue to oppose giving President Bush the tools he needs to protect our country.” So the bill passes and he attacks the Democrats?
But what was at stake? The bill passed by the House, H.R.6166 , is actually entitled ‘The Military Commissions Act of 2006. It deals with setting up new military commissions to try so called “illegal enemy combatants”. Here’s part of what the New York says in their editorial Rushing off a Cliff”:
These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:
Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of Â “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The President could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.
The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret – there’s no requirement that this list be published.
Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.
Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based in the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.
Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable – already a contradiction in terms – and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.
Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.
Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.
It is politically motivated legislation that tells the world we really don’t care about the safeguards our founders wrote into the Constitution. I urge you to read the bill yourself.
Here are some quotes (highlighting is mine) and issues I saw.
I could find no mention of how quickly one needed to be charged with a crime, yet a specific time period, 20 days, is all that’s allotted for an appeal.
The definition of who can be tried by these commissions is very broad. The bill is also retroactive to cover any event in the past.
The term `unlawful enemy combatant’ means–
`(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or
`(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.
And while the judge presiding has to have a judicial background, the people who sit on the commission and vote need not be. “Any commissioned officer of the armed forces on active duty is eligible to serve on a military commission under this chapter.”
“Evidence shall not be excluded from trial by military commission on the grounds that the evidence was not seized pursuant to a search warrant or other authorization”
” …hearsay evidence not otherwise admissible under the rules of evidence applicable in trial by general courts-martial may be admitted in a trial by military commission…”
“The military judge may close to the public all or a portion of the proceedings under paragraph (1) only upon making a specific finding that such closure is necessary to–
`(A) protect information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the national security, including intelligence or law enforcement sources, methods, or activities;…”
This bill is being pushed now to meet the political agenda and needs of the Republican Party and because this is the time Bush is most likely to get the least objection. I agree with the New York Times that it is full of bad policy and law for our country.