Only weeks after the Supreme Court declared illegal the Bush Administration’s military commissions, the White House is pushing Congress on an illegal proposal that violates the Supreme Court’s decision and abandons the rule of law. Read More at ACLU.org or Take Action at ACLU.org.
In summary, the Bush administration is attempting to strip away the rights of the detainees: no right to know what secret evidence is likely to convict them, who their accusers are, or even the right to adequately defend themselves in an open court. Further, confessions given under pain of torture would be considered admissible evidence. This goes against both the Geneva Convention and our own Constitution. And don’t forget, our founding fathers were in the midst of a war when they wrote those protections into the Constitution.
The following is the letter I submitted to my representatives in Congress (black=my words, gray=ACLU’s words):
Our Constitution was drafted by military minded people in the middle of one of the fiercest military battles in our planet’s history. These smart, militant people recognized one very important fact: all humans deserve basic human rights. That is why they built due process into the Constitution.
Sure, they could have added exemptions for war-times, for suspected criminals against the State, or other persons of interest to the government; it certainly would have been on their minds. However, they realized that EVERYONE must have the right to know what charges, what evidence, and what witnesses are against them. EVERYONE has the right to due process and a fair, unbiased trial. EVERYONE has the right to avoid self-incrimination, especially if such incrimination is made under duress and/or torture.
Our great military leaders of the past may have wanted to make exceptions for war times, but they had the decency and humanity to understand that we are judged not by how we behave in the best of situations, but in the worst. America has stood tall for over 200 years because it has done the right things. As Abraham Lincoln said, “right makes might”. The current administration seems to feel that “might makes right”, and this has resulted in America stumbling in the eyes of the world. Keep America from stumbling worse; otherwise, we will soon be falling into a terrible pit of despair from which so many veterans fought to keep us safe.
I strongly urge you to oppose the draft White House proposal regarding the criminal trials of federal detainees being held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay and in secret prisons and torture cells around the world. This proposed legislation would violate the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice and would deny detainees being held indefinitely the most basic due process protections valued by all Americans.
The Supreme Court recently ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that President Bush had no authority to create his military commissions to try detainees held indefinitely at Guantanamo. The White House draft legislation would essentially ratify these illegal military commissions and take away the due process protections prescribed by the Supreme Court.
Specifically, the White House proposal would: gut the enforceability of important Geneva Convention protections; allow the use of evidence obtained through cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment during interrogations; take the unprecedented step of allowing the federal government to convict a defendant based on secret evidence; bar a defendant from being present at his own trial; and allow the use of hearsay evidence banned from every military and civilian court in America.
This proposal will undoubtedly be rejected by the Supreme Court and only delay convictions of those who committed crimes against the United States sending these important cases back to square one. Even the top Judge Advocates General from the four military services have come out in opposition to these provisions in the White House proposal.
I urge you to reject this blatant attempt to thwart the American value of justice and insist that that any legislation include the most basic due process protections valued by all Americans. We should not abandon some of the most important values found in our Constitution and federal laws.
Again, I urge you to help restore the rule of law by opposing the White House proposal to undermine the Geneva Conventions and violate the basic due process protections of detainees being held indefinitely by the federal government.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this important matter.