Issue Position: Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007
A Bill to Provide for the Effective Prosecution of Terrorists and to Guarantee Due Process Rights.
* It restores the writ of habeas corpus for individuals held in US custody.
* It narrows the definition of unlawful enemy combatant to individuals who directly participate in a zone of active combat against the United States, and individuals who participated in attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.
* It requires that the United States live up to its Geneva Convention obligations by deleting a prohibition in law that bars detainees from invoking Geneva Conventions as a source of rights at trial.
* It permits accused to retain qualified civilian attorneys to represent them at trial, or to choose self representation.
* It prevents the use of evidence in court gained through the unreliable and immoral practices of torture and coercion.
* It charges the military judge with the responsibility for ensuring that the jury is appraised of sources, methods and activities associated with acquiring out of court statements that if known to the jury would impact on the credibility of the statement, or alternatively that such statements are not introduced at trial.
* It empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable.
* It authorizes the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the military commissions.
* It limits the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and makes that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight.
* It clarifies the definition of war crimes in statute to include certain violations of the Geneva Conventions.
* Finally, it provides for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to determine the constitutionally of its provisions.
Restoring America's Standing in the World Begins with Restoring Constitution, Habeas Corpus
by Chris Dodd
The following originally appeared in the Huffington Post on June 7, 2007
This week, two military judges dismissed charges against a Canadian and a Yemeni detained at Guantanamo Bay, ruling that their war-crimes trials cannot move forward, throwing the entire military commissions process and those being held under it into question.
At issue in these cases is not simply whether Omar Khadr and Salim Ahmed Hamdan are "lawful" or "unlawful" enemy combatants as the judges have determined. Rather, what is at stake is whether America stands for what is right or what is wrong -- whether we stand for justice that secures America or vengeance that weakens us. What is at stake is the rule of law, America's moral authority and their vital connection to America's security.
Indeed, one of the saddest days in my 26-year career in the Senate occurred last fall when the Congress passed the Military Commissions Act (MCA), allowing evidence obtained through torture to be admitted into evidence, denying individuals the right to counsel, the right to invoke the Geneva Conventions. Indeed, with passage of the MCA, Congress removed the single most important and effective safeguard of liberty man has known:
The right of habeas corpus, permitting prisoners to be brought before court to determine whether their detainment is lawful.
In removing habeas corpus protections, the MCA affirmed vengeance as a tool in fighting terrorism -- discarding sixty years of precedent and respect for the rule of law.
For me, the issue is personal. My father served as Executive Trial Counsel under Chief Prosecutor and Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, which set a high standard for moral authority and rule of law in the 20th Century. Trials were far from the obvious choice following World War Two and the extermination of 10 million people -- and vengeance was an understandable reaction.
Indeed, even with a body of evidence so overwhelming that only the likes of an Ahmadinejad could possibly deny it, Churchill wanted to promptly shoot the Nazi leaders. Stalin wanted show trials -- and then to shoot them. And many legal scholars argued there was no court or precedent under which to try them.
The parallels with the situation we find ourselves in today are chilling -- today we see an Administration that too often uses the law and its advocates not to uphold justice but to undermine it, enlisting attorneys to weaken laws and agencies that protect citizens here at home and our men and women in uniform abroad.
Let there be no doubt that Mr. Khadr, Mr. Hamdan and their fellow detainees are accused of serious crimes -- crimes they might well be guilty of.
Yet once again, we should reject the certainty of execution and incarceration for uncertainty of the rule of law and justice.
Why? Because America has always stood for something more.
It still does, but the window is closing. That is why I introduced the Restoring the Constitution Act (RCA). By insisting that suspected terrorists will be treated consistent with norms of our national law and the Geneva Conventions, to which we remain a signatory, we can protect our national security while upholding the international credibility so critical to securing America.
In the coming weeks I will be making a major push to bring the RCA to the floor of the United States Senate for a vote. To do that we need to enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate Armed Services Committee. My good friend Senator Carl Levin has shown remarkable leadership as the Democratic Chairman of the Committee and has a long record of distinguished service in the Senate. But he alone cannot bring this bill to the full Senate, and bringing the RCA to a vote in Committee without the votes will unfortunately not advance our cause. That is why I need your help -- making your voice heard by all members of the committee, Republican and Democrat alike. With your help I know we can get the votes to restore America's moral authority in the world.
It's time we stand up and say once and for all that the choice between vengeance and insecurity is a false choice -- that American leadership ought to draw strength from not our worst fears but our highest ideals.
Justice Jackson said of Nuremberg, "To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well." If we fail to rise to this moment, I fear we will be drinking from that chalice for many years to come.
Here's what you can do today to help restore the Constitution:
* Watch my video discussing the bill and upload your own explaining why you believe America is most secure when we draw strength from our highest ideals, not our worst fears -- add the tag "restoringtheconstitution" and we'll add your videos to http://restore-habeas.org.
* Visit http://restore-habeas.org to sign up as a citizen co-sponsor to the Restoring the Constitution Act. Follow updates on the legislation's progress at http://chrisdodd.com/blog.