Friday, November 17, 2006

Dodd Moves Quickly to Neuter Bush's Torture Bill

With talk of a rapid minimum wage increase and the beginning of real Congressional oversight of the White House already promised when Democrats take over the Senate in January, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) will take another step in the right direction today. Dodd will introduce legislation to amend the recently-passed Military Commissions Act of 2006 -- aka the Bush Torture Bill, because of the powers of detention and prisoner abuse it affords George W. Bush -- in an attempt to make it look like a law that actually represents the United States we all know and love.

“We in Congress have our own obligation, to work in a bipartisan way to repair the damage that has been done, to protect our international reputation, to preserve our domestic traditions, and to provide a successful mechanism to improve and enhance the tools required by the global war on terror,” Dodd said yesterday.

Dodd, an outspoken opponent of the Military Commission Act, will go to the Senate floor today to introduce the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act which will, according to Dodd's office, "…ensure that U.S. servicemen and women are afforded the maximum protection of a strong international legal framework guaranteed by respect for such provisions as the Geneva Conventions and other international standards."

The Connecticut Democrat's legislation is also intended to restore some of the moral authority America lost with the rest of the world when it gave the U.S. government's executive branch the sweeping ability to breach civil liberties in a manner more like a dictatorship than a democracy.

"It’s clear 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," said Dodd. "But in taking away their legal rights, the rights first codified in our country’s Constitution, we’re taking away our own moral compass, as well.”

Among other things, the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act will do the following:
  • Restore Habeas Corpus protections to detainees
  • Narrow the definition of unlawful enemy combatant to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States who are not lawful combatants
  • Bar information gained through coercion from being introduced as evidence in trials
  • Empower military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable
  • Authorize the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the Military commissions
  • Limit the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and makes that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight
  • Provide for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act to determine the constitutionally of its provisions
Many Americans have bought into right-wing spin that says Democrats don’t like Bush's torture bill because they want to "protect the rights of the terrorists." This is because Team Bush has carefully hidden the ugly truth behind this law -- that the power it grants would allow the Bush administration to pluck any American off the street, declare them an enemy combatant and hold them without counsel and without other Constitutional protections.

Said Dodd yesterday: “I take a backseat to no one when it comes to protecting this country from terrorists. But there is a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this."