Kind Statement on Military Tribunals for Terror Suspects
Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) released the following statement in opposition to House Resolution 6166, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, authorizing a new system of detention, trial and interrogation procedures of terrorist suspects:
"Those responsible for 9/11 and other heinous acts of terror against the United States must be prosecuted and punished. Of this there is unanimous support in Congress. The real question is whether we needlessly compromise the safety of our troops and citizens, our values as a nation, and our broader efforts in the war on terror in the process.
"As a former prosecutor, I believe judicial review and oversight is essential to guard against mistakes in law enforcement. The unilateral designation of enemy combatants' raises critical questions regarding presidential prerogative and constitutional rights. While the President, as commander-in-chief, and our military must have the freedom to protect Americans, this freedom must not go unchecked.
"While I supported the McCain-Warner-Graham compromise legislation in the Senate, I believe the bill forced through by the Bush Administration in the eleventh hour of an election year contains critical flaws that I cannot endorse. Instead of clearly banning abuse and torture, the legislation grants broad executive authority to interpret the meaning of the Geneva Conventions, leaving open the question of whether we will undertake some of the same actions it aims to ban.
"As the documented abuse of detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison demonstrated, mistreatment of prisoners only emboldens our enemies and weakens our standing abroad. If America projects to the world an image of a nation that tramples on rather than champions individual rights, I believe we will miss the chance to win hearts and minds in enemy lands and risk making us and our children less secure in the future.
"We must ask ourselves to recall the golden rule - do unto others as you would do to yourself.' How would we feel if our citizens were held indefinitely in a foreign prison without due process or judicial review? By ignoring the what ifs,' we are setting a dangerous precedent that may come back to haunt us should our soldiers fall into enemy hands. Just as troubling is the legislation's expanded definition of enemy combatant' that, due to its ambiguous language, could be interpreted to include American citizens.
"Given the Supreme Court ruling overturning the Administration's original system for military tribunals, we would be wise to scrutinize whether the legislation before us will ultimately be upheld in a court of law. As it stands, there is concern that questionable provisions could delay further the trial of detainees and punishment for terrorists.
"I regret also this Congress does not realize that truly defending America against terrorism requires not just military might, but a comprehensive strategy that also employs our diplomatic, economic, and moral strengths. It is a tragedy that we don't understand that by choosing the absolute rule of force over the rule of law we are feeding the furor of our enemies, compromising our credibility as a fair and open democracy, and ultimately undermining our efforts to win the broader war on terror."