The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is an awfully sanitized name, isn’t it? The WaPo reports that debate on the bill could begin on the floor today. I still say the weak point in this bill is the court stripping and habeas gutting — and that Democrats and foes of the bill would do well to concentrate their efforts on crafting a poison pill to attach to the bill in that form. It seems that Sens. Specter, Leahy and Smith may be trying to do just that:
…"Habeas has to be resolved," and it will most likely be addressed on the Senate floor, John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters after meeting with Hadley. Senate Republican leadership aides said that the floor debate could begin today and that the legislation setting rules for military commissions, as they are known, might be combined with a bill to create a new fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Three foes of the habeas corpus provision — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) — introduced yesterday an amendment to overturn the administration-backed provision by allowing foreign nationals in military or CIA custody to challenge the legality of their detentions after one year.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who supports the suspension of the habeas corpus process, predicted that the Specter amendment "will be defeated, I think, in a bipartisan fashion, with a solid vote." But Graham said he has been exploring a different amendment on the matter, which he declined to describe.
Administration officials have said that the controversial provision is warranted because "unlawful enemy combatants" are not entitled to the same rights as regular soldiers or U.S. citizens; because isolation and the threat of indefinite detention aid U.S. interrogations; and because habeas corpus petitions could obstruct or delay the military trials of detainees.
But human rights groups and defense lawyers have condemned the provision as unconstitutional. They said it could leave detainees "to rot" in jail.
Thirty-one former ambassadors, including 20 who served in Republican administrations, jointly wrote Congress this week that "to eliminate habeas corpus relief for the citizens of other countries who have fallen into our hands cannot but make a mockery" of the administration’s efforts to promote democracy. They also said that it would set a precedent that could jeopardize U.S. diplomats and military personnel overseas.
There are long-term consequences for our actions in this matter. And they will not fall on the heads of those members of Congress who act rashly to prop up their political hide and that of those in the Bush White House. As in all of these types of matters, it is our men and women in uniform and who work on the front lines in our embassies and intelligence agencies and in other capacities world wide who will suffer for our ethical lapses and disregard for the rule of law.
The NYTimes has more, including the fact that it looks as though the gambit on running out the clock on the FISA bill has paid off (at least at this point, but the session of Congress is not yet over).
I hereby place any Senator who has higher aspirations on notice: I will be watching proceedings today and will be taking note of any and all the votes. Just ask Joe Lieberman how easily Jane and I forget things like procedural trickery — his Alito cloture vote sealed the deal for me in opposition to his candidacy. Do not come calling for my support if you cannot hold the Constitution and this nation’s founding principles in the highest regard.
I am willing to work my butt off to help Democrats win in November — but they have to be willing to meet me part of the way and stand up for our nation, our Constitution, and our soldiers and civil servants who will have to live with the consequences of the actions taken in our Congress on this issue. Now is the time to stand up for your nation — our history deserves nothing less, and our soldiers and civil servants are depending on you. If ever there were a time to find your moral compass, this would be it — our nation deserves nothing less than everything you have to give on this issue.
Please take some time this morning to call your Senators and Representatives and tell them how you feel about The Military Commissions Act of 2006 (S.3929 and HR.6054), how important it is to stand up for the Specter/Leahy/Smith amendment regarding habeas corpus protections and federal court oversight — and how you expect your elected representatives to take their oath to protect the Constitution seriously. It is high time they all remembered that they work for us.
You can call your representatives toll free at (866) 808-0065 or find their direct dial information here.
Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m finding the Huckleberry Hound cheesecake a little tough to swallow this morning.