Today the Senate passed a law giving the President power to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals, and stripping those prisoners of habeus corpus rights in American courts. It also gave some definition to the question of interrogation tactics.
From my reading in various places, it appears that this law is either (a) the end of liberal democracy in America, and the beginning of an executive/military dictatorship; or (b) the only way to keep terrorists from destroying America. There aren't many people, either amateur bloggers or professional writers, who seem to have moderate or tempered views about this bill.
My views are relatively unformed. I have concerns about the bill, but not at the level that others seem to have. For the most part, I'm uncertain, and looking for more concrete information.
My starting point was the text of the bill itself, as it passed in the Senate. It's rather long and repetitive, though, so I didn't get through it in detail yet.
I then read a news article summarizing the bill and its surrounding political situation from Yahoo News. It was a nice overview, but I found one part of the article to be, though not literally false, rather deceptive. The article states:
Those subject to commission trials would be any person "who has engaged inI was a bit curious about the beginning of the quoted sentence from the bill, as it seems to be significant. Does it really say "any person"? I did a text search through the bill, and found the phrase in question. Here is the full quote:
hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against
the United States or its co-belligerents." Proponents say this definition would
not apply to U.S. citizens.
Any alien unlawful enemy combatant engaged in hostilities or having supported hostilities against the United States...It seems to me that an "alien unlawful enemy combatant" is quite a different thing than "any person". Why did the Yahoo News article leave out those four words, and replace them with the vague statement that proponents of the bill say it only applies to non-Americans? I don't know. It seems a very strange, probably political, editorial decision.
On a broader note, though, I'm curious... do you believe this bill is important? Disastrous? Somewhere in-between? Do you think the bill's definition of an "alien unlawful enemy combatant" could possibly apply to Americans? Do you think the bill's handling of interrogation techniques is positive or negative, and why?
There's a great deal to discuss here, and I'm having a hard time finding useful (not extreme, fatalistic, exaggerated, or cynical) discussion about the issue in other forums. Here's hoping we can have some here! :)
UPDATE: Some useful analysis and opinion from elsewhere, to help the discussion along...
Volokh Defining the Limits of Interrogation
Balkinization What Hamdan Hath Wrought