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Washington Updates (Military Commissions Should Uphold the Law)

Location: Washington, DC

Military Commissions Should Uphold the Law

Five years after 9/11, the Bush Administration has finally proposed legislation to authorize military commissions to try suspected terrorists. It is disappointing that this proposal took so long to be drafted and came only after the Administration was forced by the Supreme Court to develop comprehensive rules to govern tribunals. Unfortunately, the President's proposal would redefine the US's compliance with the Geneva Conventions and may very well be struck down again by the Supreme Court. Congress must authorize military commissions, but it must do so in a way that will withstand Supreme Court scrutiny.

In a recent meeting of the House Armed Services Committee, I expressed my deep concerns over this proposal, and supported an alternative proposal that would establish these commissions in accordance with our Constitution and the Geneva Accords. This approach is supported by a bipartisan group, including Senators McCain, Graham, and Warner, as well as General Colin Powell. I remain committed to delivering justice to terrorists who threaten our way of life, but we must do so in a way that respects our values.

The Administration's proposal is counterproductive to their goal of trying suspected terrorists, and to the wider war on terror. Because the proposal is unprecedented in how it circumvents our present military justice system, I am concerned that the Supreme Court will rule it unconstitutional. This would further delay our ability to bring such dangerous enemies as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, to justice. Since the attacks of September 11th, we have not seen a single conviction of a terrorist suspect in a military tribunal. We must not go another five years without convicting these wicked, perverse people.

On the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I met with citizens across the First District who were affected by these awful events. I restated to them my firm commitment to find terrorists before they attack, and to deliver swift justice. However, as Colin Powell recently stated, "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." We must establish a system of military commissions that will swiftly convict suspected terrorists within the law. Doing so will help us win our war against terrorism in a way that respects the values that we cherish as Americans.

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