Quantcast

Tortuous Legislation | The Nation

  •  

The Notion

Unfiltered takes on politics, ideas and culture from Nation editors and contributors.

Tortuous Legislation

Just how bad was the legislation on military detainees, aka the torture bill, that passed the House on Wednesday and the Senate last night?

Read what the Washington Post had to say about it, under the headline "Many Rights in US Legal System Absent in New Bill":

"Included in the bill...are unique rules that bar terrorism suspects from challenging their detention or treatment through traditional habeas corpus petitions. They allow prosecutors, under certain conditions, to use evidence collected through hearsay or coercion to seek criminal convictions.

The bill rejects the right to a speedy trial and limits the traditional right to self-representation by requiring that defendants accept military defense attorneys. Panels of military officers need not reach unanimous agreement to win convictions, except in death penalty cases, and appeals must go through a second military panel before reaching a federal civilian court.

By writing into law for the first time the definition of an 'unlawful enemy combatant,' the bill empowers the executive branch to detain indefinitely anyone it determines to have 'purposefully and materially' supported anti-U.S. hostilities. Only foreign nationals among those detainees can be tried by the military commissions, as they are known, and sentenced to decades in jail or put to death.

At the same time, the bill immunizes U.S. officials from prosecution for cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees who the military and the CIA captured before the end of last year. It gives the president a dominant but not exclusive role in setting the rules for future interrogations of terrorism suspects."

The legislation contains so many possibly unconstitutional provisions that one human rights expert called it "a full-employment act for lawyers."

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.