Saturday, October 14, 2006

Countdown to Military Commissions Act of 2006

Three days until President Bush’s planned signing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Three days until America officially becomes the very thing we say we fight.

The bill includes a long worded justification for the use of hearsay, calls the judicial review of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 unprecedented (sounds Katrina like to me), and highlights the Presidents memorandum in February of 2002 citing no compulsion to treat agents of al Qaeda under Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

The act also legislates compliance with current U.S. and international law. Isn’t that the job of the judiciary? In addition to the Unitary Executive, we now have the Judicial Legislative.
Here are some of the best parts of the bill:

“The Act makes clear that the Geneva Conventions are not a source of judicially enforceable individual rights”

“An unlawful enemy combatant means an individual determined by or under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense … to have supported hostilities in aid of such a force or organization so engaged”. (Yet, no definition of support or aid are in the bill)

“A military commission established under this chapter is a regularly constituted court, affording all the necessary judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples for purposes of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions”

When did civilized people decide suspending habeas corpus, use of coerced testimony, inclusion of hearsay and restricting access to evidence constitute necessary judicial guarantees? It actually sounds like uncivilized judicial processes, even Saddamish.

But there’s more. Should an unlawful combatant be spirited off the streets of a foreign country, make it through his or her detention in a secret CIA prison to Guantanamo Bay, they would have the right to legal counsel? Not yet, hold on there partner. Only after charges have been sworn is a defense representative assigned “as soon as practicable”.

The whole torture/coercion issue is danced around complete with references to the U.S.’s ever evolving definition of torture. What is interesting is no accommodation is made for the most popular defense on Capital Hill nowadays, mental health problems including alcoholism. While Mark Foley and Bob Ney plead addiction, no combatants will have that opportunity.
“Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitute a defense”.

I’m afraid I didn’t have the mental clarity or determination to continue reading the act, stopping just over halfway through. Might I pick up the later half later? I kind of doubt it, the first half was discouraging enough.

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