September 28, 2006


And so, it becomes official: The United States Senate voted the "compromise" detainee bill out this evening. The House of Representatives voted it out previously. It will become law within a matter of days.

The bill establishes a legal foundation for non-judicial trials of "enemy combatants," legally dis-allows the United States from avoiding the prohibitions of the Geneva Conventions, and codifies that enemy combatants cannot challenge their detention or trials in US courts.

The bill (soon to become law) is an abomination.

Perhaps the least offensive part are the procedures for the military tribunals that will soon be underway in Guantanamo (anyone want to lay odds of whether Khalid Sheik Mohammed goes on trial before election?): the procedures used are heaviliy tilted in favor of the government, at the expense of the accused.

While the legislation does codify that the United States cannot avoid the prohibitions of the Geneva Convention, it does allow the President (alone) to interpret the words of the Geneva Convention (meaning Bush can "allow" any procedure he wants), and also (to make matters worse) specifically disallows prosecutions of individuals for any violations of those laws. Thus, if anyone has broken a law by torturing someone, they cannot be arrested, tried or punished for those violations.

The bill also removes habeus corpus; the ability of any detainee or enemy combatant to challenge their detention or trial in the US judicial system. This was done to prevent any of the terrorists from "attacking us through our legal system" as some Senators have claimed would be the result if we didn't take this action. That is a farce. This provision means that any genuinely innocent individual cannot prove that they are innocent; they must show their innocence to a military that thought them guilty enough to capture them in the first place. How likely is that?

Finally, the legislation defines that the President alone has the undisputed, unchallenged, and unappealable right to define any individual as an enemy combatant. This would include US citizens. Thus, for the first time in US history, a law has been passed that would allow the President to throw any person in jail, and keep them there (incommunicado) for the rest of their life. No appeal. No trial. No oversight. No show of evidence. No part of the US justice system involved.

This entire bill is as complete an abomination as I have ever seen pass the US Congress. It perverts just about every right all the US military deaths of the last 217 years were fighting for. It is a travesty of unbelievable proportions, and clearly violates several parts of the US Constitution, as well as both the letter and spirit of the "rule of law" (to say nothing about violating both the letter and spirit of "checks and balances").

My only hope (a forlorn one) is that this represents the nadir of the political backlash following 9/11, and that the country can fight its way clear of this insanity in the next few years. Needless to say, I think history will look back on this leglislation as some of the worst ever passed, and we will be embarrased by it in the same way we are about Japanese internment camps and segregation.

Osama Bin Laden is laughing in his grave or cave (whichever it is).

The fact that the entire "libertarian" wing of the Republican Party didn't collectively walk out today shows that they truely don't know what "libertarian" means.

One of my Senators, Rockefeller, voted for this. I will never vote for him for any elected office, ever.

I can't believe I thought the Patriot Act was as bad as it could get.

Posted by baltar at September 28, 2006 11:01 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Extremism | International Affairs | Law and the Courts | Liberty | Politics | The Ever Shrinking Constitution


Looks like our neighbors to the West are also pissed at their democrats.

Posted by: binky at September 28, 2006 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

Obama and Byrd cosponsor an amendment (the speech).

Posted by: binky at September 29, 2006 07:47 AM | PERMALINK

Hey - If people don't want to vote for Ted Strickland or Jay Rockefeller now, I can understand that (though why in the world this vote would affect who someone chooses to support in a gubenatorial race ... well, that's just odd). But the fact that the entire GOP supported this thing and pushed it forward in the first place shows where the fault really lies. Lincoln Chafee was the only Republican in the Senate to oppose it (btw, just how fuckin' cowardly can Olympia Snowe be - not voting one way or the other on it). So in a way not voting for Rocky or Sherrod Brown in the general election really isn't solving anything - b/c in practice it's one more vote in favor of the people who are positively gleeful about this bill, and who will work much harder than Rockefeller or Brown to strip away our rights.

Oppose those two in primaries if you want, sure. That's where this kind of a fight needs to be fought - and it's entirely appropriate there. But to me it's often going to be a much worse thing to have the Congress organized by the party that's pushing this forward and is opposing amendments to it that would have made it less of a travesty (amendments that people like Rockefeller supported - amendemnts that Republicans like DeWine opposed).

Now thankfully every so often races aren't close and we can engage in protest behavior without worrying about electing someone who's even worse than a terribly disappointing incumbent (as a hypothetical, one might use the Byrd/Raese race as an example). But all too often taking a vote away from the kind of bad guy does little more than put the really bad guy closer to winning election - at least in general elections.

Posted by: Armand at September 29, 2006 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

That's fine: Rockefeller isn't running this year, and any vote I fail to make on his behalf will likely not matter (another safe seat).

That being said, I know where the blame belongs - with the GOP. That's my part, and they clearly aren't getting my vote for a single, solitary seat at any level in this election, and likely the next several.

I do know where the blame lies; but I can still blame the Democrat who helped push this through - they were wrong, and that should be publicly noted.

Posted by: baltar at September 29, 2006 01:34 PM | PERMALINK

that should be publicly noted

And that will fill Karl Rove with glee.

Posted by: binky at September 29, 2006 02:00 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, well, complaints from the German left-wing in the 1930s filled Goebbels with glee.

(And, yes, having just fulfilled Godwin's law, this argument is over.)

Posted by: baltar at September 29, 2006 02:06 PM | PERMALINK

wait, you said the president could throw anyone in jail. but aren't citizens exempt from enemy combatant status? doesnt the bill simply extend the definition of enemy combatants to include resident aliens?

Posted by: at October 4, 2006 03:57 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Godwin's Law declared this thread over. You can't resurrect it.

That being said, I think the answer to your questoin is "yes" and "no". It is true that the language in the bill does make a distinction between resident aliens (who can be tossed without a second thought) and citizens.

That being said, there are clear legal positions that argue the law does apply to citizens, who can be declared enemy combatants, and then tossed in jail.

I'm no lawyer, but it looks fairly black and white to me.

Posted by: baltar at October 4, 2006 04:03 PM | PERMALINK
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