Posts Tagged ‘military commissions’

News Digest 4/3/12

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 3/30/12

Friday, March 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Rep. Smith proposes bill to amend “indefinite detention” provisions of NDAA

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm by

On March 9, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced legislation that attempts to curb concerns over the detention policies in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA). In unveiling this bill, Smith and Udall issued a joint statement explaining the chief purpose of the bill is to repeal the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA and ensure that both civil liberties and national security are protected.

Smith, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, proposed a similar bill last May that required individuals suspected of terrorist activity be tried in civilian courts rather than military commissions. These efforts ultimately failed, and late last year the NDAA passed giving the military the authorization to lock up alleged terrorists without trial. The new bill Smith has proposed aims to correct these mistakes by allowing alleged terrorists to be tried in federal and state courts.

In a letter Smith sent to one of his colleagues, he explains his reasons and justification for this bill. Kyung Song of The Seattle Times reports that since 9/11, “more than 400 people accused of international terrorism have been successfully convicted in U.S. federal courts, including Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, and Richard Reid, the “Shoe Bomber.” This stands in sharp contrast to the seven total convictions issued by military tribunal at Guantánamo Bay since its creation 10 years ago.

As Smith points out, “the criminal justice system works,” and those charged with terrorist-related activities are being prosecuted in accordance with their crimes. The NDAA creates concerns among many groups over the president’s authority to indefinitely detain American citizens. While Obama stated upon signing the bill that his administration would not hold Americans in military custody without trial, that offers little assurance that future presidents would do the same. Smith’s bill makes it clear that even people suspected of terrorism are entitled to constitutional protection and corrects what is clearly a bad law.

The politics of the permanent emergency state

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm by

Cynics notwithstanding, there are and have always been a panoply of differences between liberal-progressive presidents and their right-wing conservative counterparts. When it comes to economics and social issues those differences are substantive, and often profound.

But David Unger, a New York Times editorial writer, finds in a new book that every modern US president, from FDR to Ronald Reagan, Ike to Clinton, JFK to George Bush and Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, with nary an exception, has shared one quality: the reflexive invoking of a vaguely defined permanent emergency state to justify the suspension of civil liberties.

In the book titled appropriately The Emergency State (reviewed by Bruce Ramsey in the Seattle Times), Unger provides the most comprehensive history yet of the shadowy American Emergency State.


Torture then, now, and in the future?

Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm by

The January/February issue of Atlantic includes a fascinating (and depressing) article by Cullen Murphy examining the notorious Spanish Inquisition, and a series of disturbing parallels with torture authorized under US policy until recently.

Murphy notes how extensive documentation of torture sessions during the Dark Ages reflects an early version of  the medical experimentation model practiced under the Bush administration.  The Torturer’s Apprentice also examines the training protocol surrounding both the Spanish Inquisition and contemporary military interrogation, which not only reflect a similar approach to training, but even many of the very same techniques.  Murphy notes (with original emphasis):

The Bush administration put forth a very narrow definition, arguing that for an action to be deemed torture, it must produce suffering “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” To place this in perspective: the administration’s threshold for when an act of torture begins was the point at which the Inquisition stipulated that it must stop.

This comparison is not simply a matter of historical analysis.  Because no senior executive officials have ever been held accountable (or even investigated) for human rights abuses committed under the Bush administration, the Obama administration’s repudiation of torture has no lasting force beyond President Obama’s tenure in office.

In fact, torture not only could occur under the next administration, but is also predictable given the recent expansion of military detention under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Thankfully, the Obama administration issued a signing statement when signing the NDAA into law, pledging not to use the NDAA’s detention provisions to deny trials to US citizens.  But that promise is at least underinclusive—since the right to due process has historically extended to citizens and non-citizens—and also ephemeral, since the next administration is not bound by the current administration’s policies.

That promise may even be shaky while Obama remains in office, given the President’s disappointing record of repeatedly breaking promises to restore civil rights principles (e.g., signing FISA after promising a filibuster, or signing the NDAA after originally promising a veto).  Only time will tell…

…but concerned Americans need not wait to raise our voices.  Already, voices from across the spectrum, and across the country, have emerged to resist indefinite detention without trial.  State legislators in Virginia, Tennessee, and Washington have introduced bills to block the participation of state agencies in detention operations authorized by the NDAA.  Several more are underway, and local resolutions either rejecting the NDAA or asserting “torture free zones” are moving in cities from Northampton, MA, to Minneapolis, MN.

Perhaps most promising among the municipal efforts to restore human rights is Chicago, IL—the hometown of a president who found his way to the White House by studying principles of constitutional law he himself has thrown to wind, now governed under the iron fist of a Mayor largely responsible for the President’s failures.

Will your city be next?  It’s up to you.

News Digest 1/26/12

Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 1/19/12

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 1/18/12

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Obama’s last act of 2011: allowing indefinite detention

Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 5:19 pm by

Today, on the last day of 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act despite acknowledging “serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”

The NDAA codifies military detention without trial for US citizens, reinforcing previously weak executive assertions that could have been overruled by courts — but which are now insulated from judicial review (at least for violating the separation of powers) under Justice Jackson’s analysis in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, a seminal case overruling President Truman’s assertion of executive power during the Korean War.

It also creates a dangerous possibility of denying Due Process to non-violent activists accused of terrorism, and inviting the recurrence of torture in military custody, which could in turn create artificial political insulation for the detention regime and any future administration that allows its predictable (and potentially inevitable) politicization.

BORDC began mobilizing opposition to the NDAA before it passed Congress.  Since then, concerns about indefinite military detention have attracted widespread support from groups across the political spectrum — including Tea Party members and Occupy sites — and all across the country, as well as amendments in both the House and Senate to ameliorate the detention provisions and restore the right to trial embodied in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

While 2011 has witnessed a profoundly disturbing continuation — and expansion — of the assault on the Constitution initiated by the Bush administration, 2012 will offer countless opportunities to raise your voice in defense of fundamental constitutional rights that have long inspired the world to admire the United States.  BORDC will continue mobilizing opposition to the NDAA in the new year, and wishes all Americans a happy, safe, prosperous, and free 2012.

Legitimacy of military commissions trials questionable

Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 9:46 am by

One of the three men the Bush administration admitted to water boarding faced a judge for the first time yesterday in a military commission.

Prosecutors claim that Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri both planned and participated in the attack against the USS Cole, French supertanker the MV Limburg, and the failed attack on the USS The Sullivans.

This is the first time Nashiri has been seen in public since he disappeared into a CIA ‘black site’ in 2002. He was held nine years in the United Arab Emirates, and was tortured by CIA operatives.

Along with being waterboarded, Nashiri was threatened at gunpoint and with a power-drill, and his family’s lives were threatened. It is alleged that confessions were obtained under torture.

Nashiri is being tried in a US military commission, a process that was recently revised by President Obama and Congress. However, there are still fewer protections and more flaws in commissions than in civilian court.

“The military commission system is broken beyond repair,” said Lt. Col. Darrell Vandeveld, in a 2009 testimony to a House Judiciary subcommittee. Vandevald was a military commissions prosecutor who resigned in protest in 2008.

Commissions are too close to the Department of Defense and not open enough to the public and media. Both judges and jurors are chosen by the Department of Defense, and the public can hardly access information on proceedings.

Although in military commissions testimony obtained vie torture is inadmissible, but evidence obtained via torture can be allowed in certain cases. In federal courts, neither testimony nor evidence derived from testimony under torture is admissible.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, to the disgust of Nashiri’s attorneys:

By torturing Mr. al-Nashiri and subjecting him to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the United States has forfeited its right to try him and certainly to kill him.