MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - September 28, 2006)
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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. I support this legislation, first and foremost, because this bill recognizes that we are a Nation at war. We are a Nation at war, and we are at war with Islamic extremists. We are not conducting a law enforcement operation against a checkwriting scam or trying to foil a bank heist. We are at war against extremists who want to kill our citizens, cripple our economy, and discredit the principles we hold dear--freedom and democracy.
Once you accept the premise that we are at war, the most important consideration should be, Does this bill protect the American people? I submit that this bill does just that. It does so by permitting the President's CIA interrogation program to continue. This is of profound importance.
If the attacks of September 11, 2001, taught us anything, it is that self-imposed limitations on our intelligence-gathering efforts can have devastating consequences. For instance, the wall of separation between the intelligence community and the law enforcement community that existed prior to 2001 proved to be an imposing hurdle to foiling the September 11 attacks. According to the report of the 9/11 Commission, in late summer 2001, the U.S. Government, in effect, conducted its search for 9/11 hijacker Khalid Mihdhar with one hand tied behind its back. As we all know, that search was unsuccessful. Comparable pre-9/11 efforts with respect to Zacarias Moussaoui were similarly frustrated in large part due to this wall.
Thankfully, with the PATRIOT Act, we removed this wall of separation, and now the intelligence and law enforcement arms of our Government can share information and more effectively protect us here at home.
Another lesson of September 11 was the premium that should be placed on human intelligence. Prior to September 11, we were woefully deficient in our human intelligence regarding al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is an extremely difficult organization to infiltrate. You can't just pay dues and become a member. But interrogation offers a rare and valuable opportunity to gather vital intelligence about al-Qaida's capabilities and plans before they attack us.
The CIA interrogation program provided crucial human intelligence that has saved American lives by helping to prevent new attacks. As the President has explained, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed told the CIA about planned attacks on U.S. buildings in which al-Qaida members were under orders to set off explosives high enough in the building so the victims could not escape through the windows.
As the President also noted, the program has also yielded human intelligence regarding al-Qaida's efforts to obtain biological weapons such as anthrax. And it has helped lead to the capture of key al-Qaida figures, such as KSM and his accomplice, Ramzi bin al Shibh.
Another means of evaluating the importance of this program is by considering a grim hypothetical. What if al-Qaida or other terrorists organizations were able to get their hands on nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and were trying to attack a major U.S. city? Thousands or even millions of lives could be at stake. Under such a chilling scenario, wouldn't we want our intelligence community to have all possible tools at its disposal? Would we want our intelligence community to respond with one hand tied behind its back as it did before September 11?
Unfortunately, that threat is all too real. The potential for al-Qaida to attack a U.S. city with a device that could kill millions of people reflects how vital it is to permit the intelligence community to make full use of the tools it needs to continue protecting American lives. The compromise preserves this crucial intelligence-gathering tool and allows the CIA and others on the front lines to continue protecting America.
In addition, this bill protects classified information from being released to al-Qaida terrorists. This also is a serious concern. The identities of U.S. intelligence officials and informants--men and women who put their lives at risk to defend this Nation--must be protected at all costs.
If we needed any reminding why terrorists should not be given sensitive information, we should just look at the prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. According to the man who prosecuted these Islamic extremists, intelligence from U.S. Government files was supplied to the defendants through the discovery process.
This information was later delivered directly to Osama bin Laden while he was living in Sudan. Let me repeat that. Information given to the jihadist defendants, individuals who tried to destroy the World Trade Center in 1993, was later given directly to bin Laden himself.
Since we are at war, we should not be revealing classified information to the enemy. That is just common sense. This bill protects classified information.
Finally, while this bill preserves our ability to continue to protect America, it also provides detainees with fair procedural rights.
In fact, this legislation provides broader protections for defendants than did Nuremberg. Liberal law professor Cass Sunstein has written that the military commissions authorized by the President in 2001 ``provide far greater procedural safeguards than any previous military commission, including Nuremberg.'' Let me say that again: liberal law professor Cass Sunstein noted that the President's 2001 military order provided far greater procedural safeguards than any previous military commission, including Nuremberg. And in this legislation, we provide defendants with even broader procedural safeguards than the President's 2001 military order.
This system is exceedingly fair since al-Qaida in no way follows the Geneva Conventions or any other international norm. Al-Qaida respects no law, no authority, no legitimacy but that of its own twisted strain of radical Islam.
Al-Qaida grants no procedural rights to Americans they capture. Look at journalist Daniel Pearl, who was beheaded by al-Qaida in Pakistan in 2002. Al-Qaida simply executes those they capture, even civilians like Pearl. Not only do they unapologetically kill innocent civilians, they broadcast these brutal executions on the Internet for all to see.
Mr. President, I would just conclude by stating that this legislation is vitally important. It is vitally important because it is wartime legislation. It is vitally important because this bill protects our national security, it protects classified information, and it protects the rights of defendants. Most important, it protects America. For these reasons, I urge its passage.