Presidential candidate Senator Chris Dodd has made defending our Constitution a focus of his campaign in a way that the “front-runners” have not. In February, he introduced the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 to address the wrongs of last year’s Military Commissions Act. The bill was recently referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Military Commissions Act – passed on the eve of the 2006 elections – is an absolute disgrace. It allows a president absolute power to define an individual as an enemy combatant, imprison that person indefinitely, without charging a crime or having the case reviewed by a civilian court. Lock a person up, throw away the key, and pity if we got it wrong. The Orwellian legislation also allows the president to redefine the meaning of torture without regard for the Geneva Conventions or any other human rights laws.
“Righting the wrongs of the Military Commission Act becomes more critical with each passing day,” said Dodd. “The people who perpetrated these horrendous crimes against our country and our people have no moral compass and deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but by taking away their legal rights, we are jeopardizing our own moral compass as well.” In a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, Dodd – along with three cosponsors, Senators Boxer, Feingold, and Menendez – wrote, “The Military Commissions Act has weakened our nation’s standing throughout the world and placed the system designed to prosecute enemy combatants under a cloud of legal uncertainty.”
Dodd’s bill would restore habeas corpus – the right of any person held in US custody to appear before a court to determine whether imprisonment is lawful. It would require that the United States live up to its Geneva Convention obligations and not wordsmith them out of existence. It would prevent the use of evidence obtained through torture or coercion. It also ensures that government officials are held accountable for torture and abuse – whether in an interrogation room or handing down orders from on high.
We deserve to hear from all of those running on how they intend to repair the damage done to our democracy in these last years. In the meantime, contact your representatives and tell them to cosponsor Dodd’s great bill. (And go www.newdemocracyproject.org to learn about The Democracy Protection Act– co-sponsored by The Nation— and what you can do to build a more perfect union.)