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Sunday, July 30, 2006

The new detainee legislation

As reported in response to the June 29 Supreme Court decision stopping the Bush Administration's attempts to try the "war on terror" detainees in military commissions the Administration has now drafted a legislation which would allow for indefinite detention of all those suspected of ties to terrorism regardless of whether they are a US Citizen or not. The following is an excellent summation of this news, courtesy Twistedchick which with your permission I would like to quote in full:
Sorry to interrupt your scheduled vacation from my posts, but you need to know about the detainee bill Bush has submitted to Congress. As far as I can tell from what I'm reading, this proposal is phrased to include US citizens, not just current detainees in Guantanamo or elsewhere; if you're 'suspected of terror ties' you might be detained indefinitely AND barred access to civilian courts. This is supposed to be the Administration's response to the Supreme Court disallowing their military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees -- but the information available on it thus far appears broad enough that it could apply to any of us as well.

...Senior officials are expected to discuss a final proposal before the
Senate Armed Services Committee next Wednesday.

According to the draft, the military would be allowed to detain all "enemy combatants" until hostilities cease. The bill defines enemy combatants as anyone "engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners who has committed an act that violates the law of war and this statute."

Legal experts said Friday that such language is dangerously broad and could authorize the military to detain indefinitely U.S. citizens who had only tenuous ties to terror networks like al Qaeda.

"That's the big question ... the definition of who can be detained," said Martin Lederman, a law professor at Georgetown University who posted a copy of the bill to a Web blog. [Note: I have looked but have not found this; if you find it, please post the link in a comment.]

Scott L. Silliman, a retired Air Force Judge Advocate, said the broad definition of enemy combatants is alarming because a U.S. citizen loosely suspected of terror ties would lose access to a civilian court — and all the rights that come with it. Administration officials have said they want to establish a secret court to try enemy combatants that factor in realities of the battlefield and would protect classified information.

The administration's proposal, as considered at one point during discussions, would toss out several legal rights common in civilian and military courts, including barring hearsay evidence, guaranteeing "speedy trials" and granting a defendant access to evidence. The proposal also would allow defendants to be barred from their own trial and likely allow the submission of coerced testimony.

Senior Republican lawmakers have said they were briefed on the general discussions and have some concerns but are awaiting a final proposal before commenting on specifics.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England are expected to discuss the proposal in an open hearing next Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Military lawyers also are scheduled to testify Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The legislation is the administration's response to a June 29 Supreme Court decision, which concluded the Pentagon could not prosecute military detainees using secret tribunals established soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The court ruled the tribunals were not authorized by law and violated treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions, which established many international laws for warfare....

Sen. John W. Warner (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Friday he expects to take up the detainee legislation in September.

Americablog says of this legislation: This is police state legislation, not American legislation. You simply cannot give the government the authority to throw whichever American citizen it wants in jail permanently, with no trial and no attorney, simply because some government bureaucrat "suspects" you have ties to terrorism. There is no evidentiary basis for "suspects." It's simply a gut decision.

This is the legislation of a police state. And I suspect Bush and the Republicans are offering this as their last-ditch effort to spare the Republicans in the elections this fall. Try get a police state and watch the Democrats scramble in disarray, unable and unsure if they want to challenge it.

Daily Kos provides info on and contact phone numbers for members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. These are the people you need to contact before Wednesday in order to make your opinions known. Make sure you contact your own Senators as well, but call the Armed Services Committee people first. Don't email or fax this time; phone them. You will know they get the message if you talk to one of their staffers; it's part of their job to give your elected officials your opinions on the issues. Tell them exactly what you think of this proposal that takes away the Constitutional rights of Americans. You may want to read some of the comments at Kos and Americablog as well; there is a lot there that might be useful during phone calls (as well as well-spoken venting.) And call your Congresspeople too, let them know what you think because this will be coming their way as well.

Do not let Bush get away with this one. Raise a holy ruckus with your Senators, every one of them. Political maneuver though it is, the Senate should be afraid of voters' wrath if they even vaguely consider this. This is an issue that should not be allowed to be forgotten -- Republican Senators should be told to forget re-election if they vote to so remove Americans' civil liberties, and Democratic Senators should be reminded that this is an issue they can use to divide the Republicans.

Three five-minute phone calls. Is that too much to do to keep your Constitutional rights?

If you don't know your Senators' phone numbers, look them up at; your Congress(wo)men can be found at

More information about the proposal:
-- from the NY Times.

-- from Fox News.

-- from TalkLeft: Proposed bill would deny detainees protection of Geneva Conventions

-- the right-wing Captain's Quarters blog provides details of the proposed bill, with commentary that I don't necessarily agree with.

-- looks at the politics of the detainee treatment issue between the White House and the Congress.

-- Counterpunch offers discussion of the detainees and the Bush tyranny.

While I am not overly optimistic about the value of the phone calls to Congressmen this may be a good idea. Mainly, I would say, this is a signal - the Executive in the US believes itself to be in a position to dispose of its citizens as it sees fit with few limitations. It is not capable of implementing this vision as of yet but it is putting some considerable effort into getting there. And even if for whatever reason you didn't consider the plight of those held in the Guantanamo prison camp or that of Jose Padilla, a US citizen held for over three years as an enemy combatant, something that has anything to do with your everyday life you might want to pay attention now. If this legislation becomes law an unelected government official may be able to lock you up for years or worse on a flimsiest of pretexts. This, in my opinion, is about as personal as politics get.

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