Torture is going under – for a little while

The following post is appearing out of sequence, and should have followed the post that consisted of a long letter to a constitutuent from the office of US Senator Arlen Specter. Specter’s letter is the full documentation for the excerpt that appears here.

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I cannot do better in this post than to quote from a long form letter sent to me by Arlen Specter, Senator from Pennsylvania and Chair of the Judiciary Committee. The Military Commissions Act, recently signed into law by President Bush, has one bad provision, according to Specter. That is, the denial to prisoners (“detainees”) of the use of a habeas corpus petition to challenge their detention. U. S. Courts recognized that use until December of 2005, which allowed for Hamdan v. Rumsfeld to be heard and decided. <>So I think, or more emotionally, I fear, that Senator Specter is a bit ingenuous in the following paragraphs from his letter:

In the June 2006 Supreme Court decision Hamdan v. Rumsfeld , the Court held that military commissions used in prosecuting enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay must be authorized by Congress and must obey the legal obligations of the Geneva Conventions’ Common Article III and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The decision explicitly urged Congress to legislate a solution by properly establishing military commissions to try alien unlawful enemy combatants.

Following the Hamdan decision, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee worked with President Bush to craft legislation to establish military tribunals. I generally supported the legislation dra fted by these Senators and the a dministration, however, I had serious reservations about a provision in the bill which eliminated detainees’ right to habeas corpus. Habeas corpus is the right of those in custody to challenge their detainment in court. As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I held a hearing on September 25, 2006 to specifically address habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees. During the Senate’s consideration of the legislation, I offered an amendment which would have guaranteed habeas\ncorpus for detainees. Unfortunately, the amendment failed on a narrow 48-51 vote.

On September 28, 2006 the Senate passed the Military Commissions Act by a vote of 65-34. Although my amendment was rejected, I voted in favor of the bill because I believe without this legislation, the ability of our government to effectively fight the global war on terrorism would be hindered. I am confident the courts will address the legislation’s constitutionality by ruling on the provision limiting habeas corpus.

The Military Commission Act is consistent with previous legislation prohibiting torture. The bill stipulates the military commissions must be established in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions. Finally, it establishes specific guidelines for the use of hearsay evidence and coerced testimony and the handling of classified information.

During the Senate’s consideration of the legislation, I offered an amendment which would have guaranteed habeas corpus for detainees. Unfortunately, the amendment failed on a narrow 48-51 vote.

On September 28, 2006 the Senate passed the Military Commissions Act by a vote of 65-34. Although my amendment was rejected, I voted in favor of the bill because I believe without this legislation, the ability of our government to effectively fight the g lobal war on terrorism would be hindered. I am confident the courts will address the legislation’s constitutionality by ruling on the provision limiting habeas corpus.

United States Senator Arlen Specter, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, form letter/email, dated October 25, 2006, “regarding the treatment of prisoners detained by the United States in connection with the global war on terrorism.” Full contents uploaded to this blog, available in the post below.

As the excerpt shows, the topic is, in truth, the Military Commissions Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in the third week of October, 2006.

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