MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - September 27, 2006)
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Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strongest opposition to this ill-conceived legislation. Once again, the House of Representatives is abrogating its Constitutional obligations and relinquishing its authority to the executive branch of government.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation will fundamentally change our country. It will establish a system whereby the President of the United States can determine unilaterally that an individual is an ``unlawful enemy combatant'' and subject to detention without access to court appeal. What is most troubling is that nothing in the bill would prevent a United States citizen from being named an ``enemy combatant'' by the President and thus possibly subject to indefinite detention. Congress is making an enormous mistake in allowing such power to be concentrated in one person.
Additionally, the bill gives the President the exclusive authority to interpret parts of the Geneva Convention relating to treatment of detainees, to determine what does and does not constitute a violation of that Convention. The President's decision on this matter would not be reviewable by either the legislative or judicial branch of government. This provision has implications not only for the current administration, but especially for any administration, Republican or Democrat, that may come to power in the future.
This legislation eliminates habeas corpus for alien unlawful enemy combatants detained under this act. Those thus named by the President will have no access to the courts to dispute the determination and detention. We have already seen numerous examples of individuals detained by mistake, who were not involved in terrorism or anti-American activities. This legislation will deny such individuals the right to challenge their detention in the court. Certainly we need to prosecute those who have committed crimes against the United States, but we also need to be sure that those we detain are legitimately suspect.
I am also concerned that sections in this bill dealing with protection of U.S. personnel from prosecution for war crimes and detainee abuse offenses are retroactively applied to as far back as 1997.
Mr. Speaker, this bill will leave the men and women of our military and intelligence services much more vulnerable overseas, which is one reason many career military and intelligence personnel oppose it. We have agreed to recognize the Geneva Convention because it is a very good guarantee that our enemy will do likewise when U.S. soldiers are captured. It is in our own interest to adhere to these provisions. Unilaterally changing the terms of how we treat those captured in battle will signal to our enemies that they may do the same. Additionally, scores of Americans working overseas as aid workers or missionaries who may provide humanitarian assistance may well be vulnerable to being named ``unlawful combatants'' by foreign governments should those countries adopt the criteria we are adopting here. Should aid workers assist groups out of favor or struggling against repressive regimes overseas, those regimes could well deem our own citizens ``unlawful combatants.'' It is a dangerous precedent we are setting.
Mr. Speaker, we must seek out, detain, try, and punish if found guilty anyone who seeks to attack the United States. We in Congress have an obligation to pass legislation that ensures that process will go forward. What Congress has done in this bill, though, is to tell the President ``you take charge of this, we reject our Constitutional duties.'' I urge my colleagues to reject this ill-conceived piece of legislation.
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