More Rights for Terror Detainees; Dodd Bill Would Restore Habeas Corpus
Byline: Nat Hentoff, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
With the Democrats about to control Congress, for at least two years, congressional oversight of the executive branch greatly diminished for the past six years will be restored. Already in some Democrats' plans are amendments to the recently passed and signed into law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), which greatly enlarges the president's much-prized unitary executive powers.
Connecticut's Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd has authored the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act which he will reintroduce in the new Congress that amends the rampant constitutional defects in the Military Commissions Act that the president was very pleased to sign in October. Since global homicidal terrorism is far from abating, Mr. Dodd makes the obligatory point:
"It's clear that the people who perpetrated these horrendous crimes against our people have no moral compass and deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law (but) at the same time protecting what it means to be America .. if we are to uphold the values of equal justice that are codified in our Constitution."
Accordingly, his legislation would restore to detainees suspected of terrorism their rights to habeas corpus the core of American due process stripped out of the 2006 Military Commissions Act, even though the Supreme Court in 2004 and 2006 ruled that these prisoners are entitled to meaningfully petition our federal courts, including their conditions of confinement.
The Dodd bill would also amend the startlingly expanded definition of "unlawful enemy combatant" in the MCA law that allows the president to hold detainees, so designated by him, indefinitely including those loosely accused of "purposely and materially supporting" the enemy. (Permanent legal aliens in the United States could also be swept up as enemy combatants for contributing to charities they didn't know were linked to terrorists.)
The Dodd bill would narrow this definition of enemy combatants "to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States."
Under the 2006 MCA, trials of enemy combatants can include evidence obtained from "coercive" interrogations, a term proved in the past to sometimes be a euphemism for torture. The Dodd bill excludes such evidence as well as unreliable hearsay evidence from sources the defendants are not able to confront.
The bill the president signed into law last October also gives him, and his successors, the authority to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners. …