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Police state. For Ben and Gula 10/23/06
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Police state. For Ben and Gula 10/23/06 - October 22, 2006, 05:50 PM

Shame on Us All

by ROBERT PARRY
Parry reviews the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
History should record October 17, 2006, as the reverse of July 4, 1776.

From the noble American ideal of each human being possessing “unalienable rights” as declared by the Founders 230 years ago amid the ringing of bells in Philadelphia, the United States effectively rescinded that concept on a dreary fall day in Washington.

At a crimped ceremony in the East Room of the White House, President George W. Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 while sitting behind a sign reading “Protecting America.”


On the surface, the law sets standards for harsh interrogations, prosecutions and executions of supposed terrorists and other “unlawful combatants,” including al-Qaeda members who allegedly conspired to murder nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

“It is a rare occasion when a President can sign a bill he knows will save American lives,” Bush said. “I have that privilege this morning.”

But the new law does much more. In effect, it creates a parallel “star chamber” system of criminal justice for anyone, including an American citizen, who is suspected of engaging in, contributing to or acting in support of violent acts directed against the U.S. government or its allies anywhere on earth. The law strips “unlawful combatants” and their alleged fellow-travelers of the fundamental right of habeas corpus, meaning that they can’t challenge their imprisonment in civilian courts, at least not until after they are brought before a military tribunal, tried under special secrecy rules and then sentenced.

One of the catches, however, is that with habeas corpus suspended these suspects have no guarantee of a swift trial and can theoretically be jailed indefinitely at the President’s discretion. Given the endless nature of the “global war on terror,” suspects could disappear forever into the dark hole of unlimited executive authority, their fate hidden even from their families. While incarcerated, the “unlawful combatants” and their cohorts can be subjected to coercive interrogations with their words used against them if and when they are brought to trial as long as a military judge approves.

The military tribunals also could use secret evidence to prosecute a wide range of “disloyal” American citizens as well as anti-American non-citizens. The procedures are similar to “star chambers,” which have been employed historically by absolute monarchs and totalitarian states. Even after the prosecutions are completed, the President could keep details secret. While an annual report must be made to Congress about the military tribunals, the President can conceal whatever information he chooses in a classified annex. False Confidence
When Congress was debating the military tribunal law in September, some Americans were reassured to hear that the law would apply to non-U.S. citizens, such as legal resident aliens and foreigners. Indeed, the law does specify that “illegal enemy combatants” must be aliens who allegedly have attacked U.S. targets or those of U.S. military allies.

But the law goes much further when it addresses what can happen to people alleged to have given aid and comfort to America’s enemies. According to the law’s language, even American citizens who are accused of helping terrorists can be shunted into the military tribunal system where they could languish indefinitely without constitutional protections.

“Any person is punishable as a principal under this chapter who commits an offense punishable by this chapter, or aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures its commission,” the law states. “Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States, or one of the co-belligerents of the enemy [presumably U.S. military allies, such as Great Britain and Israel], shall be punished as a military commission ... may direct. ...

“Any person subject to this chapter who with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign power, collects or attempts to collect information by clandestine means or while acting under false pretenses, for the purpose of conveying such information to an enemy of the United States, or one of the co-belligerents of the enemy, shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a military commission ... may direct. ...

“Any person subject to this chapter who conspires to commit one of the more substantive offenses triable by military commission under this chapter, and who knowingly does any overt act to effect the object of the conspiracy, shall be punished, if death results to one or more of the victims, by death or such other punishment as a military commission ... may direct, and, if death does not result to any of the victims, by such punishment, other than death, as a military commission ... may direct.” [Emphases added]

In other words, a wide variety of alleged crimes, including some specifically targeted at citizens with “an allegiance or duty to the United States,” would be transferred from civilian courts to military tribunals, where habeas corpus and other constitutional rights would not apply. Secret Trials
Secrecy, not the principle of openness, dominates these curious trials.

Under the military tribunal law, a judge “may close to the public all or a portion of the proceedings” if he deems that the evidence must be kept secret for national security reasons. Those concerns can be conveyed to the judge through ex parte – or one-sided – communications from the prosecutor or a government representative.

The judge also can exclude the accused from the trial if there are safety concerns or if the defendant is disruptive. Plus, the judge can admit evidence obtained through coercion if he determines it “possesses sufficient probative value” and “the interests of justice would best be served by admission of the statement into evidence.”

The law permits, too, the introduction of secret evidence “while protecting from disclosure the sources, methods, or activities by which the United States acquired the evidence if the military judge finds that ... the evidence is reliable.”

During trial, the prosecutor would have the additional right to assert a “national security privilege” that could stop “the examination of any witness,” presumably by the defense if the questioning touched on any sensitive matter.

The prosecution also would retain the right to appeal any adverse ruling by the military judge to the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. For the defense, however, the law states that “no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever ... relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission under this chapter, including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions.”

Further, the law states “no person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas corpus or other civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States is a party as a source of rights in any court of the United States or its States or territories.”

In effect, that provision amounts to a broad amnesty for all U.S. officials, including President Bush and other senior executives who may have authorized torture, murder or other violations of human rights.

Beyond that amnesty provision, the law grants President Bush the authority “to interpret the meaning and the application of the Geneva Conventions.”

In signing the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Bush remarked that “one of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America.” Pausing for dramatic effect, Bush added, “He didn’t get his wish.”

Or, perhaps, the terrorist did


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October 22, 2006, 05:52 PM

‘National yawn as our rights evaporate’

New law redefines habeas corpus; law professor explains on ‘Countdown’


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Goodbye, habeas corpus
Oct. 17: "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann talks to Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University, about the implications of the Military Commissions Act.
Countdown




TRANSCRIPT
By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'
MSNBC
Updated: 4:49 p.m. ET Oct 18, 2006
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Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'
Profile



On Tuesday, "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann talked to Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University about a new bill signed by President Bush that redefines the right of habeas corpus.
Read the transcript below.
History does not play well at this White House. Expressionless faces would probably greet references to how John Adams ended his political career by insisting he needed the Alien and Sedition Acts to silence his critics in the newspapers, or how Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order to seize Japanese-Americans during World War II necessitated a formal presidential apology eight presidents later.
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But even so, somebody probably should have told President Bush that today was the exact 135th anniversary, to the day, that President Grant suspended habeas corpus in much of South Carolina for the noble and urgent purpose of dispersing the Ku Klux Klan and making sure the freed slaves had all their voting rights, neither of which has yet truly occurred. It is your principal defense against imprisonment without charge and trial without defense thrown away for no good reason, then and now.
Our fifth story on "Countdown": President Bush, happy Habeas Corpus Day.
First thing this morning, the president signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which does away with habeas corpus, the right of suspected terrorists or anybody else to know why they have been imprisoned, provided the president does not think it should apply to you and declares you an enemy combatant.
Further, the bill allows the CIA to continue using interrogation techniques so long as they do not cause what is deemed, quote, “serious physical or mental pain.” And it lets the president to ostensibly pick and choose which parts of the Geneva Convention to obey, though to hear him describe this, this repudiation of the freedoms for which all our soldiers have died is a good thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BUSH: This bill spells out specific, recognizable offenses that would be considered crimes in the handling of detainees, so that our men and women who question captured terrorists can perform their duties to the fullest extent of the law. And this bill complies with both the spirit and the letter of our international obligations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Leading Democrats view it differently, Senator Ted Kennedy calling this “seriously flawed,” Senator Patrick Leahey saying it’s, quote, “a sad day when the rubber-stamp Congress undercuts our freedoms,” and Senator Russ Feingold adding that “We will look back on this day as a stain on our nation’s history.”
Outside the White House, a handful of individuals protested the law by dressing up as Abu Ghraib abuse victims and terror detainees. Several of them got themselves arrested, but they were apparently quickly released, despite being already dressed for Gitmo.
To assess what this law will truly mean for us all, I’m joined by Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University.

related content

I want to start by asking you about a specific part of this act that lists one of the definitions of an unlawful enemy combatant as, quote, “a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a combatant status review tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the president or the secretary of defense.”
Does that not basically mean that if Mr. Bush or Mr. Rumsfeld say so, anybody in this country, citizen or not, innocent or not, can end up being an unlawful enemy combatant?
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: It certainly does. In fact, later on, it says that if you even give material support to an organization that the president deems connected to one of these groups, you too can be an enemy combatant.
And the fact that he appoints this tribunal is meaningless. You know, standing behind him at the signing ceremony was his attorney general, who signed a memo that said that you could torture people, that you could do harm to them to the point of organ failure or death.
So if he appoints someone like that to be attorney general, you can imagine who he’s going be putting on this board.
OLBERMANN: Does this mean that under this law, ultimately the only thing keeping you, I, or the viewer out of Gitmo is the sanity and honesty of the president of the United States?
TURLEY: It does. And it’s a huge sea change for our democracy. The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the president. In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn’t rely on their good motivations.
Now we must. And people have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values.
It couldn’t be more significant. And the strange thing is, we’ve become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. I mean, the Congress just gave the president despotic powers, and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to, you know, “Dancing with the Stars.” I mean, it’s otherworldly.
OLBERMANN: Is there one defense against this, the legal challenges against particularly the suspension or elimination of habeas corpus from the equation? And where do they stand, and how likely are they to overturn this action today?
TURLEY: Well, you know what? I think people are fooling themselves if they believe that the courts will once again stop this president from taking over—taking almost absolute power. It basically comes down to a single vote on the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy. And he indicated that if Congress gave the president these types of powers, that he might go along.
And so we may have, in this country, some type of uber-president, some absolute ruler, and it’ll be up to him who gets put away as an enemy combatant, held without trial.
It’s something that no one thought—certainly I didn’t think—was possible in the United States. And I am not too sure how we got to this point. But people clearly don’t realize what a fundamental change it is about who we are as a country. What happened today changed us. And I’m not too sure we’re going to change back anytime soon.
OLBERMANN: And if Justice Kennedy tries to change us back, we can always call him an enemy combatant.
The president reiterated today the United States does not torture. Does this law actually guarantee anything like that?
TURLEY: That’s actually when I turned off my TV set, because I couldn’t believe it. You know, the United States has engaged in torture. And the whole world community has denounced the views of this administration, its early views that the president could order torture, could cause injury up to organ failure or death.
The administration has already established that it has engaged in things like waterboarding, which is not just torture. We prosecuted people after World War II for waterboarding prisoners. We treated it as a war crime. And my God, what a change of fate, where we are now embracing the very thing that we once prosecuted people for.
Who are we now? I know who we were then. But when the president said that we don’t torture, that was, frankly, when I had to turn off my TV set.
OLBERMANN: That same individual fell back on the same argument that he’d used about the war in Iraq to sanction this law. Let me play what he said and then ask you a question about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yet with the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few. Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously? And did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Does he understand the irony of those words when taken out of the context of this particular passage or of what he perceives as the war against terror, and that, in fact, the threat we may be facing is the threat of President George W. Bush?
TURLEY: Well, this is going to go down in history as one of our greatest self-inflicted wounds. And I think you can feel the judgment of history. It won’t be kind to President Bush.
But frankly, I don’t think that it will be kind to the rest of us. I think that history will ask, Where were you? What did you do when this thing was signed into law? There were people that protested the Japanese concentration camps, there were people that protested these other acts. But we are strangely silent in this national yawn as our rights evaporate.
OLBERMANN: Well, not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but I think we’ve done a little bit of what we could have done. I’ll see you at Gitmo. As always, greatest thanks for your time, Jon.


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October 22, 2006, 05:54 PM



Bush signs torture bill; Americans lose essential freedom

George W. Bush got what he wanted, ostensibly as a tool in his unfocused "war on terror": By signing into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Bush has made it legal for the C.I.A. to continue operating torture facilities in undisclosed, foreign countries, and for the writ of habeas corpus to be suspended for individuals who are designated "enemy combatants" against the U.S. (Designated by whom? That question remains unanswered.) The law also "establishes military tribunals that would allow some use of evidence obtained by coercion [that is, torture], but would give defendants access to classified evidence being used to convict them." (Reuters)
AP
Bush's torture bill purports to "protect America," even though it appears to be designed to help protect Republicans instead

The provisions of Bush's new torture law mean that Americans have lost the key, constitutional right on which Anglo-American criminal law (and criminal-law procedures in true democracies in general) is founded; that's the basic right of an individual to know why he or she is being apprehended and detained. Now, technically, as in Stalin's Soviet Union, Hitler's Germany, Mao's China or Pol Pot's Cambodia, anyone labeled an "enemy combatant" - again, by whom; by Bush? - can be whisked away and never heard from again. That kind of authority, in the hands of corrupt or untruthful politicians, may or may not be an effective tool in some kind of "war on terror," but it certainly can be a useful tool when it comes to silencing their opponents.
Ron Edmonds/AP
Three men who've played key roles in the Bush administration's ongoing defiance of the U.S. Consitution looked on as Bush signed the torture bill into law: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice-president Dick Cheney

"Officially, the Military Commissions Act protects detainees from blatant abuses during questioning, such as rape, torture and 'cruel and inhuman' treatment, but it does not require that any of them be granted legal counsel....Bush said that it was 'fair, lawful and necessary.'" (Times)
During the bill-signing ceremony yesterday, religious groups protested outside the White House. Demonstrators declared, "Bush is the terrorist" and "Torture is a crime."
In an Orwellian pronouncement dutifully reported by Voice of America, the taxpayer-funded "news" service that acts as a mouthpiece for the administration, Bush said: "The United States does not torture....It is against our laws and it is against our values. By allowing the C.I.A. program to go forward, this bill is preserving a tool that has saved American lives." Bush's claim flies in the face of numerous reports of torture conducted by American officials at U.S. military prisons or secret locations overseas. (See Human Rights Watch)
AP
The prison at the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba

China's Xinhua, the state-controlled news agency of a country that knows a thing or two about suppressing human rights, reports: "Of the hundreds of detainees being jailed at the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, only ten have been selected for trial. The indefinite detention of others has been condemned by human-rights groups as violating international law." Xinhua adds: "Some or all of the 14 suspects held by the C.I.A. in secret prisons [outside the U.S.] and recently transferred to military custody at Guantánamo might also be tried." (And then again, given the imprecision of Bush's new law and the ever-greater power that he keeps claiming as president, they might not.)
Xinhua observes: "Three weeks before the midterm congressional elections, [Bush's] signing of the bill was believed to be a deliberate move aimed to shift public


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October 22, 2006, 11:52 PM

Supreme Court, do your job.

note: I tried my damnedest to keep my reply short.


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October 23, 2006, 10:36 AM



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October 23, 2006, 12:54 PM

Number one, someone should reformat this thread so it fits...

Number two, the issues are inter-related. Whenever you increase control you usurp that control from something else. Whenever we give more controls to the government or any governing body, we lose the ability to govern or control the things around us.

It's a fact.


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October 23, 2006, 01:50 PM

Hey, what does it take for someone to be charged with war crimes? And who would pursue such a thing? From what I've read about the use of torture, even only what they've admitted to, I would think there are several members of this Administration including Bush who seem to have authorized the commission of war crimes.

I wonder how these kind of principles/agreements apply. I mean, is it a war crime if you torture a foreigner who is a citizen of a country with which you are not at war? Would we be ok with Saudi Arabia torturing an American citizen for any reason what-so-ever?

What about a declared war, where you quickly depose the government of the other country. What rights or protection from torture do the conquered have?

Why is it necessary to give the President powers to declare someone an "enemy combatant" and thereby negate his rights? I mean, if the guy is fighting our troops, it should be pretty easy to convict him of attempted murder regardless no?

Sort of a strange question, but what law is respected in a conquered country?

How do conservatives argue any of this "enemy combatant" stuff is a good idea? It seems like pure idiocy to me.


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October 23, 2006, 02:05 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DvlsAdvc8
Supreme Court, do your job.

note: I tried my damnedest to keep my reply short.
Citizen, do your job: be educated and vote.


The Supreme Court cannot do anything about this bill. If the House and Senate pass a bill and the President signs it into law, then it is law. The Supreme Court can do nothing about it.

However, should someone take this to court, and eventually the Supreme Court, then the Supreme Court can rule that the law is unconstitutional.

I'm not gonna start a debate in here, I pointed this out on my blog last week and said my piece there.
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October 23, 2006, 02:47 PM

I am absolutely appalled.

I am a citizen, and I am educated, and yes I vote.

And I am appalled. Speechless. Can't get the horrified look off my face. Oh man.

Thanks for the posts, even tho i'm bummed now.
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October 24, 2006, 04:06 PM

http://www.infowars.com/articles/ps/...s_are_lies.htm
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October 24, 2006, 10:00 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by stevegula
Citizen, do your job: be educated and vote.


The Supreme Court cannot do anything about this bill. If the House and Senate pass a bill and the President signs it into law, then it is law. The Supreme Court can do nothing about it.

However, should someone take this to court, and eventually the Supreme Court, then the Supreme Court can rule that the law is unconstitutional.

I'm not gonna start a debate in here, I pointed this out on my blog last week and said my piece there.
Thanks I am educated and I vote.

Just so you know, what you point out about the Supreme Court is exactly what I am referring to. The junk is law now and its only a matter of time before it ends up before the Supreme Court.

What I wonder though is this, if you are declared an enemy combatant, and thus lose your rights, then how exactly are you supposed to bring a case? Wouldn't it kind of be more like black bag treatment? Enemy combatants, "disappear". Once you are one, you can't do anything about it.

Hopefully, by the time King George is out of office, people will have awaken and swept his ilk from office. Then maybe they can repeal this garbage.


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