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The New Antiterrorism Bill


Mabdul Doobakus
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I thought I would just share this NY Times Editorial on the new bill.

 

Here?s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans? fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws ? while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

 

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists ? because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That?s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

 

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush?s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

 

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

 

These are some of the bill?s biggest flaws:

 

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of ?illegal enemy combatant? in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

 

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret ? there?s no requirement that this list be published.

 

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

 

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

 

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable ? already a contradiction in terms ? and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

 

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

 

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

 

?There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

 

We don?t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they?ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won?t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

 

They?ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation?s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

 

Like the editors, I find this bill completely despicable. You can debate about what measures are needed to protect this country from terrorism, but some of the things this bill would allow are indefensible. Anyone who votes to approve this thing will never receive my vote in an election, not unless they're running against the second coming of Hitler. I am not suggesting that no extra measures should be taken to combat terrorism, or that there should be no additional leeway given to those who are prosecuting suspected terrorists. But we are going way too far.

 

I'm sure there will be people who are moved to defend this bill. Go ahead. Some of you will even make fair and reasonable arguements. I only ask that we refrain from the partisan poo flinging that has destroyed so many threads in this forum. We all want what is best for this country (not for our party), and I just don't see how becoming less and less American is good for America. But that's just me.

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That's exactly what I was afraid of with the Patriot Act. That the government would use 9/11 and the threat of terror as an excuse to consolidate their power, and let the Executive branch's actions go un-checked by either the Supreme Court/Justice Dept. or Congress.

 

If this actually goes though, we are in very very big trouble.

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ya know...with the republican track record of laws since 9/11...one could make a pretty sound argument that this administration is doing alot of the same things that the nazis did...the difference of course being is that America is supposed to rule the world and universe and anyone against us is an unpatriotic nut case who is a traitor to America and everything this country was founded on...its funny how republicans point that out about liberals being unpatriotic, yet republicans are aiming to take away our rights

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ya know...with the republican track record of laws since 9/11...one could make a pretty sound argument that this administration is doing alot of the same things that the nazis did...the difference of course being is that America is supposed to rule the world and universe and anyone against us is an unpatriotic nut case who is a traitor to America and everything this country was founded on...its funny how republicans point that out about liberals being unpatriotic, yet republicans are aiming to take away our rights

 

 

Most Republicans wholeheartedly do not believe that the Republicans in office are not trying to take away rights...

 

They're not looking at the big picture.

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ya know...with the republican track record of laws since 9/11...one could make a pretty sound argument that this administration is doing alot of the same things that the nazis did...the difference of course being is that America is supposed to rule the world and universe and anyone against us is an unpatriotic nut case who is a traitor to America and everything this country was founded on...its funny how republicans point that out about liberals being unpatriotic, yet republicans are aiming to take away our rights

Right, the government is restricting rights of a minority, right?

 

 

 

Give me a break, I don't like the policies either, but we are no where near Nazi Germany.

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Well, if your average Republican lawmaker is John Bainer or George Allen, they're going to let the President do whatever he wants.

 

Only John McCain ever seems to criticize the President or his policies from that side of the aisle (with the occasional backer in someone like John Warner).

 

 

Speaking of George Allen, he's not going to get shut out, as I had hoped, because my dad is voting for him. I asked him why, and he said that we need to "keep the liberals and the queers from ruining the foundations of our country."

 

I pointed out that our country's foundations were not a theocratic charter as he would believe, but more along the lines of a Constitution, the principle of checks and balances, and equality - and for these reasons I'm voting Democratic.

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I am working on him, he thinks it's his moral duty to vote Republican but his knowledge of politics goes about as far as his wife can throw a football. I damn near had him vote Mark Warner last fall, I was on the phone with him on the way to the polls, but unfortunately he went with his wife and didn't want to rock the boat with her and ended up voting Kilgore.

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