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September 29, 2006 - Guyuan, China

The Land of Deep Dark Holes

Sitting here, on another rainy day in rural China, I watch in horror as my native country procedes to further cast shadow on its’ (self-proclaimed and otherwise) reputation as a “beacon of freedom.”1

I am not a law scholar, but the passages in H.R. 6166 are clear in their intent. Or more accurately - forwardly ambiguous. These guys aren’t rocket scientists, if they were they’d work at NASA, but they know what is at stake.

The upcoming elections. And that’s exactly why 12 Democrats - not surprisingly some of whom are in tight races - voted to pass this bill.

With the passage of H.R. 6166 in the House - and likely the Senate - incarceration terms can be extended indefinitely, wherever, and it is now open-season on interrogation.

If the POTUS or the DoD would like to throw you in a deep, dark, secret hole - they can. If they would like you to be tortured, you will be. If you would like to appeal this situation, or if you survive, seek reparations, you cannot.

Pardon my French - but this is a bonifide carte f**king blanche for Mr. George W. Bush.

This is no longer a Republic - but Despotism. Self-proclaimed Neo-Enlightened Despotism.

Do we chalk this up to the current state of the American mind, zealot Republicans and the spineless Democratic leadership (ever heard of a goddamn filibuster?) or fear?

Let’s get to the meat of this atrocity.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006

First off, let’s see who can be tried by a tribunal.

Sec. 948a. Definitions

(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.

I read: Anyone that the POTUS or the DoD wants. Anyone. Foreign national, alien, or U.S. Citizen.2 Thats right, you, if you are an American citizen on U.S. soil, you can be tried by tribunal - forget a trial by peers or the Bill of Rights.

Again, if the Pentagon decides that an American citizen is an unlawful enemy combatant - one who has never left the country or has ever had contact with “hostile” forces - you are an unlawful enemy combatant. Welcome to Guantanamo - if you’re lucky.

Now how long can we hold the detainee?

Sec. 949t. Maximum limits

The punishment which a military commission under this chapter may direct for an offense may not exceed such limits as the President or Secretary of Defense may prescribe for that offense.

I read: As long as the POTUS or the DoD wants. Also known as forever.3 Hell, we can knock ‘em off if we want to. Forget holding them forever, we just string ‘em up.4

But the Geneva Convention will protect the detainees, right?

Sec. 948b. Military commissions generally

(g) Geneva Conventions Not Establishing Source of Rights - No alien unlawful enemy combatant subject to trial by military commission under this chapter may invoke the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights.

Sec. 948r. Compulsory self-incrimination prohibited; treatment of statements obtained by torture and other statements

(2) the interests of justice would best be served by admission of the statement into evidence;

There goes that. Geneva Schemeva. A detainee can now be coerced into making an incriminating statement, and that statement will be admissible in the tribunal. The definitions of “torture” are now so narrow that the tribunal judge can permit whatever evidence he sees fit.

And where can we hold them?

Sec. 949u. Execution of confinement

(2) in any penal or correctional institution under the control of the United States or its allies, or which the United States may be allowed to use.

I read: Anywhere that the POTUS or the DoD wants.

So to round that up - anybody can be held anywhere for as long as Mr. Bush wants.

Take that terrorists. Take that human rights.

We don’t even need to bring up the actual trial/tribunal itself. There is no need to disclose classified evidence.5 There is no opportunity for the traditional court system to intercede.

And Habeas Corpus?6 What’s that?

Sec. 7. Habeas Corpus Matters
(e)(1) No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

Doesn’t anybody remember these few lines?

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Our Sixth Amendment. I’m sure there’s a copy around somewhere.

And now our Sixth Amendment is impotent.

…of the trial by jury of the vicinage in civil and criminal cases; of the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus;… If these rights are well defined, and secured against encroachment, it is impossible that government should ever degenerate into tyranny.
- James Monroe

Sorry James. 2006 is turning out to be pretty handy for tyranny.

An aside: The intention for afarther was to be travel-log rather than a soapbox - but sometimes things don’t always work out the way you envision them. If you feel strongly about this, I’d love to hear about it.

» Link lovin’

H.R. 6166 - The bill itself.

» Footnotes
  1. “America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.”
    - President Bush, Sept. 11, 2001«
  2. Sec. 950v. Crimes triable by military commissions
    (26) WRONGFULLY AIDING THE ENEMY- Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States, or one of the co-belligerents of the enemy, shall be punished as a military commission under this chapter may direct.«
  3. The term may not exceed 10 years unless concurrence of 3/4 of present tribunal members.«
  4. No person may be sentenced by a military commission to suffer death, except if all tribunal members and President concur on a death sentance. As per Sec. 950i.«
  5. Sec. 949d. Sessions
    (f)(1) NATIONAL SECURITY PRIVILEGE- (A) Classified information shall be protected and is privileged from disclosure if disclosure would be detrimental to the national security. The rule in the preceding sentence applies to all stages of the proceedings of military commissions under this chapter.«
  6. “(the habeas acts) …declare no principle and define no rights, but they are for practical purposes worth a hundred constitutional articles guaranteeing individual liberty.”
    - Albert Venn Dicey

    The right, in common law countries, to petition for writ of release from unlawful punishment.«

The bill even prevents the courts from reviewing some of most controversial stuff. John Marshall must be turning over in his Virginia grave. Give the folks who drafted this bill credit for over-active imaginations.

- Gary on a Sunday

It's just gonna get worse. America's on the downward slide, and I'll betcha she ain't gettin' up any time soon. America the ungrateful. Great, huh?

- Siobhan on a Tuesday
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