Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Military Commissions Act of 2006

The Constitution of the United States of America

1787-2006

RIP


A bit dramatic? Not even close.

Yesterday, the President signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006. There are so many things wrong with this law that I can't possibly cover them all. But this law removes so many fundamental liberties that it will be judged, by history, as a shameful moment in our country's history. (And the torture provisions? Another blog rant for another time.)

Of course, anyone who disagrees with this law is instantly branded as weak and against national security. The Republican Party Chairman described the Democrats who voted against the bill as, "... voting against interrogating terrorists." No, I believe their votes were against abandoning all that this nation has held dear for 200+ years in an atmosphere of fear and hysteria. There is no desire to "pamper" terrorists. There is only the belief that every American is entitled to the rights afforded by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and that no single person, to include the President and the Secretary of Defense, can declare a citizen of this nation beyond the rule of law.

It is easy to discuss and support liberty and freedom and democracy and the rule of law in times of peace and for those with whom we agree. It is another matter entirely to support and defend these things during times of conflict or for those with whom we disagree. I believe that those who would harm this nation deserve a fair trial and the full protection of the Constitution, not because of who they are but because of who we are. And when given a fair trial, if convicted, they deserve swift and appropriate punishment for their crimes.

Let me make that opinion clear, lest it be misinterpreted. Convicted terrorists - those who would seek to destroy American lives - deserve to be put to death. And though they do not deserve the full protection of the American judicial system, they should have it. Because to provide them less would be to tear away at the very fabric of what makes this nation great.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."

For more discussion on this law, check out these links:
And here, lifted entirely from Wikipedia, is an overall criticism of the law:

The Act has been denounced by critics who assert that its wording authorizes the permanent detention and torture (as defined by the Geneva Conventions) of anyone - including American citizens - based solely on the decision of the President.[10] One has described it as "the legalization of the José Padilla treatment" - referring to the American citizen who was declared an unlawful enemy combatant and then imprisoned for three years before finally being charged with a lesser crime than was originally alleged.[11] A legal brief filed on Padilla's behalf alleges that during this time he was subjected to sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, and enforced stress positions.[12]

Amnesty International said that the Act "contravenes human rights principles."[13] An editorial in The New York Times described the Act as "a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts."[14]

American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said, "The president can now, with the approval of Congress, indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions." [15]

And here are more references:
habeas corpus (Lat. "you have the body")

Prisoners often seek release by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he should be released from custody. A habeas corpus petition is a petition filed with a court by a person who objects to his own or another's detention or imprisonment.

Courtesy of www.lectlaw.com.
Military Commissions Act of 2006

(1) UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT- (A) 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.

Courtesy of The Library of Congress.