Pelosi Statement on Military Commissions
Contact: Brendan Daly/Jennifer Crider
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in strong opposition to H.R. 6054 - Military Commissions Act. Three major amendments offered by Democratic Members were rejected by the Rules Committee. Below are Pelosi's remarks:
"It's been five years since 9/11, yet not one person who has been directly responsible for 9/11 has been prosecuted and punished. There's something wrong with this picture. And this bill today, because it does violence to the Constitution of the United States, also could produce convictions that may well be overturned because the bill does not heed the instructions from the Supreme Court - a Supreme Court friendly to this Administration - which has directed it to go back to the drawing board.
"Democrats, as well as Republicans, bring to this debate an unshakeable commitment to the proposition that terrorists who attack Americans must be caught, convicted, and punished in a judicial process that will withstand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. We want them in jail, we want them punished, whatever that punishment is. We don't want it overturned, and that is what this debate is about today.
"The American people want those responsible for 9/11 to be prosecuted without further delay. It is five years later, and they want convictions to stick so that justice will not be further postponed.
"It is inexplicable. How do you explain to people that five years later, this has not happened? Not a single one of the planners even has been brought to trial. This bill does not help us achieve the goal of bringing anyone to trial. It is badly flawed. It threatens the safety of our troops, our ability to prosecute terrorists effectively, our ability to protect the American people, and to honor our oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.
"Rather than welcoming suggestions for improvements, Republicans refuse to hear them at all. The only recourse we have is to defeat this rule so that we can offer amendments to address some of the bill's most glaring deficiencies in the areas of habeas corpus, standards of the Geneva Conventions, and the appeals process.
"If we do not, I believe that we are headed for a repeat of Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld - a Supreme Court defeat for the President and a decision that sends us back to square one in terms of bringing those responsible for 9/11 to trial.
"By seeking to strip federal courts of habeas corpus review, this bill is practically begging to be overturned by the courts. Habeas corpus is one of the hallmarks of our legal system and our democracy. It is the last line of defense against arbitrary executive power. On that subject we had an amendment proposed by Congressman Marty Meehan that was rejected by the Rules Committee. Hopefully, we can reject the previous question so that we can bring that up.
"Permitting indefinite detention under conditions that cannot be challenged in court is so contrary to our history and our values that it should raise all sorts of red flags.
"Yet this bill rushes us headlong into a court-stripping misadventure that will have disastrous consequences for our efforts to combat terrorism. Let us not go there.
"In addition, the bill establishes an appeals process that ignores the existing, highly respected, appellate military system that provides a direct route to the Supreme Court. Rather than deferring to the military justice system that is respected by the military, now in place, the bill creates a new appeals court with no track record and a longer path to Supreme Court review, which will delay justice.
"Perhaps most distressing, this bill could very well boomerang on us - putting American troops in danger. Redefining the Geneva Conventions in ways that lower the treatment standards the Conventions create poses a real risk to American forces.
"This is a time when the Golden Rule really should be in affect. Do not do unto others, what you would not have them do unto your troops, your CIA agents, your people in the field.
"For 60 years, we have understood that our military personnel are best protected by an international commitment to the highest possible standards for the treatment of prisoners. Why would we want to do something that at the same time jeopardizes the safety of our troops and weakens the moral basis for our efforts against terrorists? Experts have testified over and over again that that kind of treatment does not produce the intelligence that has the value and reliability that we need to protect the American people and to bring these terrorists to justice.
"Democrats have proposed amendments on these issues: habeas corpus, the Geneva Conventions, the appeals process. But the rule as drafted will not allow us to consider them. This House once again is shutting us down on debate. Just yesterday, this House said No' to the resolution that said we want all Members of Congress to see the National Intelligence Estimate so that we can stipulate together, to a set of facts on how the war in Iraq is having a negative impact on the war on terror. Yesterday, they said No.' Today, they said No.' It's just a constant chant. These subjects are too important to allow that result to stand.
"Let us do the job we were elected to do on this, one of the pivotal issues of our time. Let us honor our oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution and our responsibility to protect the American people and to prosecute and punish those who would do harm to them."