Sunday, July 30, 2006

Terror detainees protected by the Bush administration

President Bush said in no uncertain terms of the detainees in American custody that, "We do not torture." Considering the unambiguously humane manner in which they must be treated, it's unclear why the attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, feels it necessary to ask Republican congressmen to write new law. He's asking them to write legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. Why would they need protection from prosecution if they do not torture?

Perhaps it's not torture the administration is concerned about. The War Crimes Act of 1996 actually permits capital punishment if US-held detainees die in custody. That could be particularly bad for some members of the Third Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. A sergeant from the brigade said he had witnessed a deliberate plot by his fellow soldiers to kill three handcuffed Iraqis and a cover-up in which one soldier cut another to bolster their story. The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked. The three detainees were shot and killed by the soldiers. Apparently, Gonzalez thinks troops committing brutal acts such as these will need protection from prosecution when they have their day in court.

Meanwhile, the White House is also busy making their recommendations on how to conduct detainees' days in court when they are prosecuted for terror. Under these recommendations, hearsay evidence would be allowed unless it was deemed to be unreliable. Defendants also would be barred from their own trials if it were necessary to protect national security. Since it would not be permissible to implement these recommendations under the more defendant-friendly courts martial system, the administration is recommending that enemy combatants be tried under the more stringent military tribunal system. The Bush administration clearly feels that people suspected of terror do not warrant the same legal rights as those suspected of murder.

Apparently, Bush is so confident that detainees captured by those under his command are treated with the greatest fairness and care that there's no need for them to have the basic human rights that the US Constitution provides people being tried in a court of law. He's somehow convinced that the detainees are terrorists even though they have not been tried in a court of law or permitted to present any evidence that might show that they did not commit the crimes of which they're accused (if any charges have been levied at all).

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