Military Commissions Act


"We lost a big chunk of our democracy on September 28, 2006. That was the day the Senate voted, 65 to 34, to approve the Military Commissions Act, assuring that this "flagrantly unconstitutional" bill, as Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont accurately labeled it, would become law...

"This law skews our system of checks and balances. It eviscerates the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments. And it repudiatees the Magna Carta.

"It allows the President of the United States to label anyone--including a US citizen--an enemy combatant and to deprive that person of basic due process rights to challenge his or her detention in court. And it authorizes the President "to try alien unlawful enemy combatants" (the bill's terminology) before a military tribunal, with inferior legal safeguards. If convicted of a serious crime in such a kangaroo court, these enemy combatants can then be executed.

"This law destroys the writ of habeas corpus, the guarantee that you can challenge your detention in court...

"This law, says Vincent Warren, executive director of the center, gives the President "the privelege of kings."

"The law also dilutes Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The Supreme Court, in the Hamdan decision this past June, said the Executive Branch had to uphold Common Article 3. But this new law says forget about that.

"Common Article 3 requires nations to treat detainees "humanely," and it forbids "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment...

"The passage of this law indicates that we are not a "civilized people"...

"One last thing: The Military Commissions Act retroactively grants immunity to Bush Administration officials who countenanced torture. Bush and Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales thus gave themselves, as the ACLU notes, a "get out of jail free" card for their previous actions...

"Historians looking back on our era will describe the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act as bookends on the shelf marked "the assault on democracy"" (Matthew Rothschild. Comment. The Progressive, Nov. 2006: 8-9).


Colby Glass, MLIS