Military Commissions Act Has Failed
-a law that provides neither freedom nor security
For Americans who truly care about freedom, the Military Commissions Act is clearly a dangerous law. The 2006 law, voted for by many Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress, legalized torture and granted retroactive amnesty to George W. Bush and his associates for war crimes they committed as part of their program of extreme detention and interrogation.
What's more, the Military Commissions Act revoked the centuries-old guarantee of habeas corpus, setting up a secret government committee controlled by the President with the power to revoke the legal rights of anyone, without a trial and without the legal rights associated with a trial and guaranteed by the Constitution. By creating a legal category of people without habeas corpus rights, the law essentially took away habeas corpus protections from all people. After all, if the government has the power to deny habeas corpus rights from some people, it has the power to take anyone into custody and claim falsely that the prisoner is in the category of people who don't have the protection of habeas corpus. How could anyone outside the prison learn the truth, without habeas corpus?
Finally, the Military Commissions Act set up a system of kangaroo courts with low standards of justice so obscene that they should have horrified people all across the USA. These kangaroo courts took away the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers, the right to a speedy trial, the right to have adequate representation, and the right to be aware of the evidence used by the prosecution. The these phony trials were designed by the law to be conducted by the American military, even though the people being prosecuted were denied the rights of prisoners of war under the claim that they weren't really taking part in a military conflict.
Sadly, most Americans weren't paying attention at all. Americans were too busy enjoying the last throes of an artificially-inflated economy to pay attention. They were going on vacation, watching sports, eating out in cushy restaurants, buying fun electronic toys for their homes. Most Americans still don't know what the Military Commissions Act is, much less understand what the law does.
Very few people are aware, either, that the Military Commissions Act continues to be in effect under President Barack Obama. The Military Commissions Act will continue to be in effect until another piece of legislation is passed that revokes it.
On January 15, 2009, Congressman David Price introduced just such a piece of legislation into the House of Representatives. The Interrogation and Detention Reform Act, H.R. 591, would step by step revoke the Military Commissions Act. So far, 13 other members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors to the bill.
In addition to the active parts of the bill, there are the findings, and these are most likely to persuade those Americans who, even knowing how severely the Military Commissions Act has damaged the Constitution, believe that the law is worth it because of the need for security. It's a common excuse for attacks on our freedoms, the idea that freedom needs to be balanced with the need for security.
H.R. 591 confronts this misperception head-on. The Military Commisssions Act, it finds, has failed to bring security to the USA. It has been an ineffective tool in bringing terrorists to justice. Section 301 of the bill explains,
"Attempts to implement a military tribunal system in accordance with Executive Order 13425, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-366), or the President's Military Order of November 13, 2001 (66 Fed. Reg. 57,833), have failed to achieve their stated mission of bringing suspected terrorists and combatants to justice. To date, the tribunals and commissions established in connection with these efforts have yielded just three convictions, the first following a guilty plea by the defendant, and have failed to achieve the conviction of a single individual in connection with the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001."
The Military Commissions Act, in the two and half years that it has been in effect, has not resulted in a single conviction for any crime related to the 2001 terrorist attacks. These kangaroo courts are at once unjust and incompetent.
Even if you believe that security concerns must overrule constitutional guarantees of freedom, you ought to be in favor of the repeal of the Military Commissions Act. The Military Commissions Act is a failed law that has not done a thing to make the USA more secure.
Read up on another unjust law that persists under Barack Obama: The FISA Amendments Act of the FISA Amendments Act
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...and then explore the ongoing authoritarian dimension of Homeland Insecurity