MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - September 27, 2006)
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Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I would like to return the compliment that Senator Levin gave to myself, Senator McCain, and Senator Warner. I have found Senator Levin and his staff to be very good to work with. Sometimes we reach agreement and sometimes we don't, but all the time we try. As to my staff, I appreciate the tons of time they have spent trying to give us the best product we can get in the legislative process that will adhere to our values and allow the war effort to move forward in an effective way.
As to the difference between the committee bill, which we wrote and supported, and the compromise we reached with the White House, which we wrote and support, there are some differences. I think some of them we have addressed with Senator Levin's staff. They were very helpful. He found some language which was dropped inadvertently which made the bill stronger.
I would just like to suggest that whatever military experience I have had pales in comparison to the men and women who are in charge of today's military legal system. I am a reservist. I come in and out of military law. I spent 6 1/2 years on active duty, and I really enjoyed my time. I dealt a lot in the court-martial process as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. But as a reservist and Guard member, it has been a part-time job. But those who do this full time supported the administration's proposal when it came to the admission of evidence by the military judge. I will, at an appropriate time, introduce that into the RECORD.
I believe the JAGs are a good source of advice. That doesn't mean they are the only source of advice. That doesn't mean that because the Judge Advocate Generals of all four branches say so, we need to do what they say. It would be wise to just listen, and I have tried to listen. Sometimes I agree; sometimes I don't. But they have said unanimously, it is my understanding, that the evidentiary standards in terms of admission of evidence, where the judge will determine whether the evidence is reliable and probative using the totality of circumstances to create justice, was a sufficient legal standard, and they were supportive of that standard. So this idea that we are going to allow coerced evidence into a trial purposely, that we made a conscious decision from the committee bill to the compromise to change course and take everything we had said before and just throw it over in a ditch, quite honestly, makes no sense.
Whatever motives you would like to attribute to the effort here, I can assure my colleagues I want to create a process that would be acceptable if our troops found themselves subject to it. And every military Judge Advocate, every admiral, and every general, believes the evidentiary standard in this committee bill is legally acceptable and appropriate.
Why the difference between December 30, 2005, and before? The reason we have a two-tiered system is because in 2005, due to the hard work of Senator McCain and Senator Levin--who was a champion in trying to bring this about on the Democratic side--we were able to make a policy statement of the United States that says: Cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment as a policy will be forbidden. And we referenced the 5th, 8th, and 14th amendments standard called ``shock the conscience'' that existed in the convention on torture. All bills have excluded evidence that violates the torture statute. It is a per se exclusion. If the military judge, in their discretion, believes that the conduct in front of the court amounts to torture, in violation of the torture statute, it does not come into evidence.
The committee bill had a per se exclusion for a violation of the Detainee Treatment Act, and it has been changed, and here is why: The Detainee Treatment Act is a policy statement, not an evidentiary standard. The Detainee Treatment Act says that the Government and its agents and agencies will not engage in cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. I would argue that to exclude evidence in a military commission that may run afoul of degrading treatment would create a higher standard for a terrorist than our own military members have in their own courts-martial. So I think the policy statement ``cruel and inhumane and degrading'' should not be an evidentiary standard, and it is not.
But what we did do to bolster that policy statement is we took the 5th, 8th, and 14th amendment ``shock the conscience test'' and said: From the date of the Detainee Treatment Act forward, that will be an area that the judge has to make an inquiry into regarding the admission of evidence. The reason we didn't want to go backward is because before the Detainee Treatment Act passed in 2005, no one had recognized the 5th, 8th, and 14th amendment concepts applying to enemy combatants. So what we are trying to do is start over after Hamdan and incorporate into the military commission model as many protections as we can that also protect America. So going forward, from the Detainee Treatment Act forward, any evidence gathered after the Detainee Treatment Act will have to comply with the 5th, 8th, and 14th amendments requirements that make up the heart and soul of the Detainee Treatment Act. To make it retroactive and exclude statements where that concept was not known, was not part of our legal system regarding enemy combatants, in my opinion, was unwise.
So we are going forward, reinforcing the Detainee Treatment Act, and the standard of admission of evidence of reliable and probative meets the standards of justice and totality of the circumstances test, stays in place, covers all statements before and after. Our Judge Advocate Generals, to a person, have said that if you take the Detainee Treatment Act out of the equation, what is left still is acceptable. And the courts will make that decision.
I am confident that the standard that we had, the administration had when it came to the admission of evidence, was acceptable, and the judge advocates who have objected to many things did not object to that.
So the idea that we made a conscious decision to allow cruel and inhumane treatment to become a player defies what we did in totality.
The title 18, War Crimes Act, was rewritten. One of the crimes that we put in title 18 that would constitute a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, a felony under our own law, is cruel or inhumane treatment: The act of a person who commits or conspires or attempts to commit an act intended to inflict severe or serious physical or mental pain or suffering, other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions, including serious physical abuse upon another within his custody or control. And we defined those terms. It is a felony in U.S. law to engage in cruel or inhumane treatment, not just torture. It is a felony in U.S. law to mutilate or maim.
What we did--intentionally causing serious bodily harm, rape, sexual assault or abuse, taking hostages--what we did is we took what the Geneva Conventions have defined as being a grave breach of the conventions, we put it in title 18 of the War Crimes Act, and made it a felony. So if you are a military member or CIA agent and you run afoul of the title 18 War Crimes Act, you can be prosecuted. When it comes time for the military judge to rule upon the admissibility of evidence in a military commission, the standard that we will be using has been blessed by every Judge Advocate General that we have, those in charge of our military legal system.
So I think it is a good standard. I think the fact that we put the DTA 5th, 8th and 14th amendment standard into the statute in a perfective way enhances and emboldens what we are trying to do with the DTA and will make us a better nation.
The other areas of concerns: enemy combatant definition. The enemy combatant definition that is changed from the compromise and committee bill allows us to, subject to military commission, try those people who intentionally and knowingly aid terrorism; materially support terrorism. To me, that makes sense. I want to prosecute the person who sells the guns to al-Qaida as much as the people who use the weapons. I want to go after the support network that supports terrorism. To me, that makes perfect sense. I am glad we expanded the definition because those who are assisting terrorists in a knowingly purposeful way should be held accountable for their actions.
Under no circumstance can an American citizen be tried in a military commission. The jurisdiction of military commissions does not allow for the trial of American citizens or lawful combatants, and those who say otherwise, quite frankly, have not read the legislation because there is a prohibition to that happening.
The hearsay rules that are in the compromise very much mirror the committee bill, but that we are allowing a burden shift, to me, makes sense given the global nature of the war. I can spend a lot of time explaining the differences between the two bills, but I will basically summarize by saying that the purpose of the committee bill has been met by the compromise. If it were not so, I would not vote for it. We are not allowing into evidence coerced statements unless the judge makes the decision they are reliable, probative, and in the totality of circumstances they meet the ends of justice.
At the end of the day you are going to have a judge applying a legal standard to a request to admit evidence. The administration, in my opinion, in their first product, was trying to legislate a conviction. In many ways they were trying to set up the rules when it came to the military commission format that would allow evidence to go to the jury never seen by the accused. That would make it very hard to defend yourself.
We have changed that. Anything the jury gets to convict, the accused can examine and rebut. To me, that was a huge accomplishment that put the trials back on sound footing within our value system, and legally I think they will pass muster now.
So at the end of the day, in my opinion we do not need to try to legislate how the judge should rule. Everybody has their pet peeve about where the administration has failed or succeeded, about how the CIA has conducted its business. I have found an effort to tie the judges' hands to the point that we have no flexibility when it comes to admitting evidence. The judge is in the best place--better than anybody here--to make a decision as to what should come into that trial. What are we asking the judges to do? To use their experience, their knowledge of the law, their sense of right or wrong to determine: Is that statement reliable? Is it probative? Given everything around it, would the interests of justice be met if it came into the trial?
That is an acceptable legal standard, not only to every Judge Advocate General who serves today in our military, it should be a standard that every American is proud of because I am proud of it.
I bet you dollars to doughnuts when the Supreme Court gets hold of our work product they are going to approve it.
Finally, Hamdan is about applying the Geneva Conventions to the war on terror. Everybody I know of in the administration believed that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to these unlawful enemy combatants. I shared that belief. We were wrong. The Supreme Court--whether I agree or not--ruled. After their ruling, we had two things that we had to accomplish to get this country back on track within the rule of law. We had a challenge: to take the CIA interrogation program that existed and will exist and make sure that it was Geneva Conventions compliant.
What do the Geneva Conventions require of every country that signs the document? It requires that, domestically, that country will outlaw, within its own domestic law, grave breaches of the treaty. Every country has an affirmative duty to set out within their laws and prosecute their own people for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
Title 18 is the War Crimes Act. Under title 18 we have listed nine crimes that would be considered grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. To the CIA: Your program, whatever it may be in classified form, must comply with the War Crimes Act. And the War Crimes Act runs the gamut from torture to cruel, inhumane treatment, intentional infliction of serious bodily injury, or mental pain.
We have taken nine well-defined felonies and told the CIA and every other agency in the country: Whatever you do, if you violate these statutes you will be subject to being prosecuted.
I want a CIA program to be classified when it comes to interrogating high-value terrorist targets. I think it would be foolhardy to tell the terrorist community everything that comes your way when you join al-Qaida or some other terrorist organization. But it is important to tell every American, every CIA agent, their family, and the international community what we do will not only be within the Geneva Conventions, it is going to be beyond what the Conventions require, and I think we have accomplished that.
There are six specified events in article 129 and article 130 of the Geneva Conventions that constitute grave breaches. We have adopted all six, and we have added to that list. Whatever the CIA is doing and wherever they do it, whatever the Department of Defense is doing and wherever they do it, they now have the notice and the clarity that they did not have before to do their job within the law.
This idea that we have rewritten the statute and given immunity to people who have violated the statute is absurd. There is nothing in the compromise or the committee bill that would give immunity or amnesty to someone who violated the felony provisions. But what we did do, that I am proud of, is that we took a 1997 War Crimes Act that was so ill-defined that no one understood it and gave clarity and purpose to it so those whom we are asking to defend us from the most vicious people in the world will have a chance to know the law.
Abu Ghraib was about policies that cut legal corners, that migrated from one side of the Government to the other, that got everybody involved confused as to what you could and could not do. It was a mixture of individual deviance and bad policy, poorly trained people, not enough folks to do the job, and not trained well enough to understand what the job was. It was a mess. For 2 years we have been trying--and I have been as helpful as I know how to be--to create some sense of balance to bring order out of chaos, and we are on the verge of doing it.
This is a product, not only that I support, that I had but one that I am proud of. Every military lawyer who sits on the top of our military legal system has had input on every issue. They have had the guts to go to the House and Senate and say some things about the President's proposal are flat wrong. That took a lot of guts, and I am here to tell you the final product took their input and what their concerns were and has been changed.
But if you want a CIA program that is not classified, you lost. I want the program to be classified. But I want it to run within the obligations of the Geneva Conventions, and we have accomplished that.
Finally, what did we do in the compromise that we didn't do in the committee bill? We said that every obligation under the Geneva Conventions that our country has, outside of the War Crimes Act, will be fulfilled by our President. Under our constitutional democracy, it is the obligation of the executive branch to implement and interpret treaties. This whole debate, what I have been working on for 2 weeks and getting beat up on in every talk radio show in the country, was about how can you comply with the Geneva Conventions in a way that will be seen by the world as not getting out of the Conventions.
The proposal for the Congress to redefine the treaty terms, in my opinion, would have created a precedent for every other country, in a war that they are in the middle of, to change the treaty in the middle of a war. The conventions have been closed for years. It would have been wrong, ill-advised for the Congress to sit down with the President and rewrite the treaty obligations for domestic purposes because clearly then we would have been changing the treaty terms without notifying the other parties.
What we did to avoid that is we, Congress, defined nine crimes that would constitute grave breaches, honoring our commitment under the Geneva Conventions, to outlaw grave breaches, felonies. We have done our job, and we turned to the Executive and said in this legislation: It is your job, Mr. President, consistent with our constitutional democracy, to implement and fulfill the obligations of the treaty outside of title 18. And when you make a decision, publish what you have decided. And any decision you make cannot take power away from the courts or the Congress that we have in the same arena.
Those people who want to overturn the election, who do not like President Bush, are upset that we recognized he has a role to play. Let me tell you, he does have a role to play. Any President has the same role that we are going to give President Bush--to implement a treaty, not change a treaty.
So I think we have done a very good job of putting into law our obligations under the Geneva Conventions defining, constitutionally, who has what responsibility so that no reasonable person could say the United States has abandoned its longstanding obligations to the Geneva Conventions because we have not. And that is what we have been sweating over for weeks. No reasonable person can say that this compromise condones torture, cruel, or inhumane treatment because we make it a felony. What we have done is given the military judge the tools he or she will need to render justice. And I have tried to embolden and strengthen the Detainee Treatment Act in a way that I think makes sense.
The military court-martial system will be the model. The military commission will deviate. And the authority given to the Secretary is the same authority given to the President: to make differences between the district courts and the military justice system as a whole. It is compliant with article 36 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This compromise is compliant with Hamdan. It is compliant with the values we are fighting for. And it has the flexibility we need to fight an enemy that knows no bounds.
The work product is the result of give and take, is the result of being more than one branch of Government, is the result of having to deal with a court decision that was new and novel. I can say from my point of view that not only will I vote for the compromise, I am very proud of it.
I yield the floor.