The McCain-Graham-Warner proposal concerning military commissions was, from the beginning, an awful bill that was quite radical in its own right. As but one example, the senators' proposal strips all detainees in American custody of the right of habeas corpus, meaning that detainees are denied the right to challenge in court either the validity of their detention (e.g., by proving that they are not terrorists) or the legality of their treatment (e.g., by demonstrating that they have been tortured).
This denial-of-judicial-access provision means, as Yale law professor Jack Balkin explained, that the military can imprison, and torture, a detainee forever without ever bringing the detainee before a military commission, and the detainee has no means at all to challenge his detention or the treatment to which he is subjected. It is difficult to imagine a more radical power to vest in our government than the power to detain people (including legal residents in the U.S.) forever, and to torture them, while expressly denying a detainee all legal recourse. Yet that is exactly what the McCain-Graham-Warner proposal (and the White House's proposal) provides.
I would desperately love to hear that this is a serious distortion of the facts, that fundamental principles of justice have not been violated, and that the United States has not just taken the first great step towards becoming a police state.
Being something of a neophyte in American politics, I don't know if Glenn Greenwald is considered a loony lefty. I'm not sure it matters; I've never been overly impressed with ad hominem arguments and the mistaken impression that affixing a label trumps an argument. What I want to know from supporters of this bill is this: is this depiction accurate? Is it truly possible for an innocent to be trapped with no recourse? And if so, how can you support it? If not, please demonstrate. I would love to know that this is not actually reality. Because this kind of reality is truly frightening.
[Update] The Washington Post is also not impressed.
The bad news is that Mr. Bush, as he made clear yesterday, intends to continue using the CIA to secretly detain and abuse certain terrorist suspects. He will do so by issuing his own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions in an executive order and by relying on questionable Justice Department opinions that authorize such practices as exposing prisoners to hypothermia and prolonged sleep deprivation. Under the compromise agreed to yesterday, Congress would recognize his authority to take these steps and prevent prisoners from appealing them to U.S. courts. The bill would also immunize CIA personnel from prosecution for all but the most serious abuses and protect those who in the past violated U.S. law against war crimes.
[[Update]] Do read the comment thread. There's a good, constructive discussion going on.
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