Brie: It's What's For Breakfast

Just another weblog

Gaining Respect for (gulp) Condoleezza

Lawyers and G.O.P. Chiefs Resist Proposal on Tribunal – New York Times

Selected portions of this astounding article:

    “The Bush administration’s proposal to bring leading terrorism suspects before military tribunals met stiff resistance Thursday from key Republicans and top military lawyers who said some provisions would not withstand legal scrutiny or do enough to repair the nation’s tarnished reputation internationally….
    “The administration officials, who agreed to discuss internal administration deliberations in exchange for anonymity, said the decision to transfer high-level terror suspects from Central Intelligence Agency prisons to military custody had been the result of months of secret debate at the highest levels of government.
    “The officials said the change had been most vigorously championed by the State Department, under Condoleezza Rice, against some resistance from a range of officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, who had defended the status quo, in which high-level leaders of Al Qaeda, including the man identified as the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, have been held in secret C.I.A custody.
Brig, Gen. James C. Walker, the top uniformed lawyer for the Marines, said that no civilized country should deny a defendant the right to see the evidence against him and that the United States ‘should not be the first.’
    “Maj. Gen. Scott C. Black, the judge advocate general of the Army, made the same point, and Rear Adm. Bruce E. MacDonald, the judge advocate general of the Navy, said military law provided rules for using classified evidence, whereby a judge could prepare an unclassified version of the evidence to share with the jury and the accused and his lawyer.
    Senate Republicans said the proposal to deny the accused the right to see classified evidence was one of the main points of contention remaining between them and the administration.
    ‘It would be unacceptable, legally, in my opinion, to give someone the death penalty in a trial where they never heard the evidence against them,’  said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has played a key role in the drafting of alternative legislation as a member of the Armed Services Committee and a military judge.  ‘”Trust us, you’re guilty, we’re going to execute you, but we can’t tell you why”? That’s not going to pass muster; that’s not necessary.”

I may have to rethink my total disgust with absolutely every member of the Bush administration.  This NYT  article tells us that Condi actually opposes holding suspected terrorists in secret CIA prisons.  She apparently even wants to give them a trial before they are executed.  Yes, a member of the Bush administration thinks perhaps due process should at least be given a nod with respect to these people.

The article says she and Cheney have been in conflict over this subject.  Anyone in the administration who stands up to Cheney has my attention, if not my respect.  That man scares the hell out of me.  W observed the same vice presidential plan as his father – pick one that would be a much worse president and guarantee no one will opt for assassination.

How should our government prosecute someone when the evidence against them is classified?  The Bush administration would simply say that the defendant shouldn’t know the classified evidence against him, but should be convicted anyway.  This violates the Confrontation Clause in the US Constitution, which provides that a criminal defendant should be fully apprised of the evidence against him and be able to confront the witnesses presenting that evidence.

The Confrontation Clause is part of the Bill of Rights, those first ten Amendments to the Constitution that address the basic rights and freedoms that all people should have.  This is where we find the freedom of speech and religion, the right to be secure in our homes against government intrusion, the right of states to organize militias, the criminal defendant’s right to a lawyer, the right to associate with whomever we wish.

Why was this included in the Bill of Rights?  We should keep in mind that the framers of our constitution were considered criminals themselves at one point in their lives: immediately before and during the revolutionary war.  In crafting the constitution there were months of heated debate and argument about wehat to include and how it should be include d.  The framers carefully worded each phrase so as to lay a foundation for a free society.

I think if any of the framers were alive today to see how much government intrusion there is in our daily lives, they would be shocked senseless.

But back to the issue of confrontation: When one is accused of a crime and subject to losing his liberty or his life becauseof the accusations, he must know what the evidence is and he must be given a lawyer so that he can do his best to effectively counter it.  His liberty is on the line.    His life may be on the line.   The Bush administration would have us support keeping the terrorist suspects in custody as well as the prisoners of war held at Guantanamo Bay, just because the administration doesn’t want to explain what the evidence is.

This is the same administration that insisted Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, remember?  And it says, just like when it justified going to war in Iraq, “we have good evidence, but we’re not going to tell you what it is.”

The chief executive of the United States government should support the constitution enthusiastically and without exception.  This administration has sought ways around it and other laws at every turn.  It diminishes my respect for the government.

September 8, 2006 - Posted by | Foreign Relations, News, Politics, War

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