Mixed Messages

Dubya on the “King George Can Do Whatever He Wants To However He Wants For However Long He Wants Provided King George At Some Point Says Terrorist” bill he signed into law today:

The bill I sign today helps secure this country, and it sends a clear message: This nation is patient and decent and fair, and we will never back down from the threats to our freedom.

It sends a message alright: The hell with fairness. Kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out. America, F**k Yeah!

[Update] Here’s the bill. Some of the highlights:

It allows for the use of evidence that resulted from torture. Section 949a(b)(2)(C) [These section numbers are all in Section 3 of the bill] empowers the Secretary of Defense to create the following rule of evidence:

A statement of the accused that is otherwise admissible shall not be excluded from trial by military commission on grounds of alleged coercion or compulsory self-incrimination so long as the evidence complies with the provisions of section 948r of this title.

948r prohibits the use of evidence gained by torture, but then says where “the degree of coercion is disputed” it’s admissible so long as it is reliable, and if it occurred after the passage of the December 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, it accords with that act. If it occurred before the DTA, though, all it need be is reliable.

Section 948b(D)(a) eliminates the right to a speedy trial.

Hearsay is admissible unless 1) the normal military rules would prohibit it, and 2) the opponent demonstrates that it is unreliable. 949a(b)(2)(E).

Convictions based on secret evidence are permitted (949d(f)(1)):

Classified information shall be protected and is privileged from disclosure if disclosure would be detrimental to the national security. The rule in the preceding sentence applies to all stages of the proceedings of military commissions under this chapter.

There are procedures for redacting the classified sections, “to the extent practicable” (949(f)(2)) but the decision of whether or not to do so is one sided (949d(f)(3)):

A claim of privilege under this subsection, and any materials submitted in support thereof, shall, upon request of the Government, be considered by the military judge in camera and shall not be disclosed to the accused.

Appeals are limited to the DC Circuit and Scotus, otherwise:

no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever, including any action pending on or filed after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission under this chapter, including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions under this chapter.

950j(b)).

Duly enacted treaties – you know those things the Constitution makes the supreme law of the land – are for girlie men (948b(g)):

No alien unlawful enemy combatant subject to trial by military commission under this chapter may invoke the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights.

And in case you thought “oh, I’m not an alien, I’m a citizen, I don’t have to worry,” here is Section 5 of the bill:

No person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas corpus or other civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States is a party as a source of rights in any court of the United States or its States or territories.

And the grand finale, Section 7:

No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

Well, one more thing. There is nothing in the bill that requires that these trials ever actually occur. From what I know, I think most of the “enemy combatants” would be more than happy to face one of these trials. Or any trial for that matter. What they primarily argue – and I agree – is that holding them indefinitely is wrong. If they are such horrific threats, then we ought to offer competent evidence to prove it and if we succeed punish them accordingly. Instead, we just hold them, with no charges, no trial, no nothing. This bill does nothing to change that. In fact, by getting rid of any speedy trial rights and then prohibiting all suits other than an appeal of a final decision, it means these folks just have to sit and wait.

Convicting people based on evidence they don’t get to see, or testimony they can’t cross examine, or a confession that was tortured out of them is not “decent” or “fair.” Repudiating treaties that were designed to protect basic human rights is “sending a message” that we just don’t care. And the only people who have to be “patient” are the prisoners who will remain sitting until the president is good and ready to try them.

As for the torture sections of the bill, it gives the President sole enforcement authority. So nothing else it says matters. He can do what he wants. I know, I know, he is God’s anointed and would never do anything wrong. But I don’t want to live in a country where I have to trust that my elected officials will not abuse their power; I want to live in a country where they cannot abuse their power.

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3 Comments on “Mixed Messages”

  1. Dan Says:

    I’ve read the bill. I fail to see how the word “fair” comes into play at all.

  2. Kathy Says:

    The nation may be patient and decent and fair, but those words certainly don’t apply to W.

  3. Mark Says:

    When I see this, I feel sick.


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