Monday, July 31, 2006

Proposed terror law induces terror

Yesterday my SO found an AP article ("Bush submits new terror detainee bill") about a draft law proposed by our civil-liberties-respecting administration.
U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill.
The bill is still a draft, but what it contains is absolutely insane.
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."


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.
Martin Lederman has posted a detailed discussion of the most recent draft, including a link to the full text of the proposed bill; here's his analysis of who can be charged under the law:
On first glance, the proposal does not appear to be limited to aliens (the word "alien" was repeatedly deleted), nor even to Al Qaeda and other groups and individuals covered by the September 18, 2001 AUMF -- it covers any and all "enemy combatants" against the U.S. and its allies in any conflict, anywhere and at any time. And "unlawful enemy combatant" is defined to include -- but not be limited to -- an individual or is or was "part of or supporting" Taliban or Al Qaeda forces, or associated forces engaged in hostilities against the U.S. or its coalition partners. If I'm reading this right, if you're a citizen alleged to have "supported" a hostile group "associated" with Al Qaeda, you can be (i) detained until the "cessation of hostilities" (with whom? doesn't say); and (ii) tried before a military commission.
And, as much as I'd like it to be, this doesn't appear to be a joke; the AP article ends with:
Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Friday he expects to take up the detainee legislation in September.

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