I don’t classify myself as a lawyer, nor claim to understand the complexities of the legal system. It is beyond me in most cases. A few words however pop out at me that even I understand. Habeas Corpus. Geneva Convention, Legal Representation and the more sinister words, Detainment, Torture, Enemy. Those last words in particular mean something across the boundaries of legal-speak, and although they might be dressed up into different meanings, beneath the apparel, they are still sinister.
The Military Commissions Act of 2006 was passed on October 17th 2006, passed into law with a simple scribble from the boy-king’s pen. The whole thing is repulsive, and does little more than define us as a bona fide police state; which although might be argued has been the case for some time, now it’s legal. First the Patriot Act, and now this. In effect it gives the President the right to decide who is a danger to the state, then torture them, prosecute them and imprison them indefinitely.
An “unlawful enemy combatant” can be any person – not excluding American citizens – determined to be one by a “competent tribunal” established by the President or the Secretary of Defense [Sec.948a(1)(ii)].
‘Enemy combatant’ is a loose term indeed. Specifically in the bill it states:
`(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant.’
The definition of ‘support’ is ambiguous at best. Does that included open opposition to government policy? News and information? Anything anti-american is usually denounced as ‘propaganda’ while relaying the word of Bush is considered news. David Blunkett, former U.K. Home Secretary admitted to targeting Al-Jazeera media headquaters in Baghad as he stated: “There wasn’t a worry from me because I believed that this was a war and in a war you wouldn’t allow the broadcast to continue taking place.”
And what the hell is a ‘competent tribunal’? It isn’t defined at all in the bill.
The Act changes pre-existing law to explicitly suspend the writ of habeas corpus for detainees who are not U.S. citizens [Section 7(a)]. This provision applies to all cases pending at the time the Act is enacted, as well as to all such future cases.
Without Habeas Corpus, many of those detained will be unable to ask why, therefore leaving the thousands housed at Guantanamo bay and other secret CIA prisons without hope for appeal.
`(2) …no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.’.
I can assume that means you can’t complain about the bread and water treatment, but also about how you were treated during your detention, even before you are prosecuted. Talk about free-reign.
We haven’t even got onto to an actual prosecution yet.
If the government chooses to prosecute, a military commission is convened for this purpose. The following rules are some of those established for trying unlawful enemy combatants who are not citizens of the United States. [Sec.948b (a)] The Act does not exclude these rules from being applied when trying unlawful enemy combatants who are American citizens.
• Certain sections of the Uniform Code of Military Justice are deemed inapplicable – including some relating to a speedy trial [Sec.948b (d)(1)(A)], compulsory self-incrimination [Sec.948b (d)(1)(B)], and pre-trial investigation [Sec.948b (d)(1)(C)].
That means no more use of the fifth amendment, that is ‘‘No person shall be … compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,’
• A civilian defense attorney may not be used unless they have clearance to view materials classified Secret. [Sec.949c(b)(3)(D)]
I don’t know of many lawyers who have Classified: Secret Clearance, unless they are in fact a military lawyer, or has been one in the past, either way, this dictates a possible bias.
• Based on his findings, the judge may introduce hearsay evidence [Sec.949a(b)(2)(E)(i)], evidence obtained without a search warrant [Sec.949a(b)(2)(B)], evidence obtained when the degree of coercion is disputed [Sec.948r (d)], or classified evidence not made available to the defense [Sec.949d(f)(2)(B)].
This part is particularly worrying. A judge can now bring in illegal wiretaps or other information that contravenes first amendment rights, and evidence that the defense can’t base their case around.
• A finding of Guilty requires only a 2/3 majority [Sec.949m(a)]
The beauty of the modern jury system is that you may not be sentenced to the full extent of the law if there is even a shadow of a doubt that you are innocent. That is going out of the window. But it’s okay. Don’t worry. It takes ‘unanimous consent’ if the death penalty is the prospective punishment. As if spending your life in a military prison is anything less than a death warrant.
• No defendant may invoke the Geneva Conventions in legal proceedings on their behalf. [Section 5(a)]
You may not be able to believe this part (I know at first I couldn’t), so let’s be more specific. The precise wording is:
‘Sec 5 (a) In General- 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.’
• The President determines “the meaning and application” of the Geneva Conventions banning the torture of prisoners. [Sec.6 (a)(3)(A)]
This, added with the previous section means that he, this man, gets to determine what the Geneva convention means, and where it gets used. That undermines the whole reason for treaties such as the Geneva convention in the first place, that no-one gets to determine anything within it, it’s a solid law, within that lies its protection. We won’t even talk about the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. King Bush is outdoing himself. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Alberto Gonzales, former council to the White House described the Conventions as a “quaint” protection of prisoners and dismissed the “obsolete” limitations on interrogations. Donald Rumsfeld openly condoned the use of torture techniques in the interrogation of prisoners. This legislation has been a long time hoped for by the psychopaths currently occupying the government. And don’t forget, the bill implicitly states that it’s not just foreigners that apply for this kind of treatment, but home-grown citizens too.
• The accused may be tried for the same offense a second time “with his consent” [Sec.949h(a)].
• If the military commission returns a finding of Not Guilty, its convening authority is not required to take action on the findings. [Sec.950b(c)(3)].
The exact wording goes:
‘[Sec.950b(c)(3)] …the convening authority may, in his sole discretion, approve, disapprove, commute, or suspend the sentence in whole or in part.’
In whole, the bill removes our liberties, and most Americans, accept this, smiling kinda nervously, as in the name of fear they allow everything that is free and open in our lives to be removed. How long will it take before writing this kind of blog will become illegal, before anything directed against the government is labeled as ‘dissent’?
Just a thought, but is the administration after a draft? A repeat of Vietnam? Regardless of the fact that draftees make bad soldiers, not that it would make any difference as the Bush administration have never had any qualms about sending legions of the young into battle as bullet-stoppers. Regardless of the fact that most people don’t support what they’re doing in their wars. Regardless of this, he needs more troops, but with the instatement of a draft comes a concerted anti-war movement. But with all the power vested in him he can remove the restraints from the dogs of ‘civil-protection’ and what you’ve seen with tear-gassing, bludgeoning, shooting into crowds of protesters, peaceful or not, will be merely a glimpse of what will come.
We’ve had this fear-mongering for so long we don’t what it’s like to live without it. So much damage has been done in the name of this awful ‘war on terror’. As Bruce states so well in the top right hand corner of his blog ‘Reminder: There is no war on terrorism or tyranny. There is a war OF terrorism to promote a global tyranny.’ I fully agree with that statement. Only it will be done under the guise of security, safety, and protecting our way of life, whatever the hell that means anymore.
“We cannot be able to tell the American people we’re doing our full job unless we have the tools necessary to do so. And this legislation passed in the House …is a part of making sure that we do have the capacity to protect you. Our most solemn job is the security of this country.” – George W. Bush
“When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag.”
— Huey Long