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Military Commission Act of 2006

Location: Washington, DC

MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - September 28, 2006)


Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, we hear on a daily basis about the war we are currently engaged in, the war on terror, but I don't think most of us stop to think about what that actually means.

As citizens of the greatest country in the world, we have become so accustomed to all the rights afforded us by our Constitution that we now take them for granted. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a nation where our freedom and safety is our Government's first priority.

We aren't living in the world I grew up in. Our Nation was rocked to its core 5 years ago when we were attacked on our own soil. Thousands of innocent Americans were murdered simply because they lived in the one country that, above all others, embodies freedom and democracy. The mastermind behind those attacks was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is now in custody and soon will be brought to justice.

In the aftermath of these attacks, Congress authorized our President to ``use all necessary force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.'' President Bush used this authorization, combined with his constitutional powers to make these sorts of judgments during times of war, to try enemy combatants in military commissions.

Earlier this month, we observed the 5-year anniversary of the horrific attacks on America. I cannot imagine the reaction that would have come if, 5 years ago, Members of Congress had stood on this floor and suggested that we wouldn't do all we could to prevent another attack on our country. Five years ago, with the images of the collapsing Twin Towers and the burning Pentagon and the smoldering Pennsylvania field seared into our memories, we stood united in the proposition that we intended to protect Americans first.

In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which the Supreme Court decided earlier this year, the Court ruled that the administration's use of military commissions to try unlawful enemy combatants violated international law. This decision forced our interrogators, key in defending America from terrorist attack, to curtail their investigations. Without a clarification of the vague requirements, these interrogators might be subject to prosecution for war crimes. It also brought to an end the prosecution of unlawful enemy combatants through the military commissions.

It is key to point out that military commissions have been used throughout American history to bring enemy combatants to justice since before the United States was even officially formed. George Washington used them during the American Revolution, and since our Constitution was ratified, Presidents have used military commissions to try those who seek to harm Americans during every major conflict. Some of our most popular Presidents from history have taken this route, including Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Whenever the leaders of this great Nation have seen threats posed by those who refuse to abide by the rules of war, they have taken the necessary steps to protect us.

Our President has come to us and asked for help in trying these terrorists whose sole goal is to kill those who love freedom. He has asked for our help in ensuring that those investigating potential terrorist plots against our Nation and our citizens are secure from arbitrary prosecution for undefined war crimes. These people are part of our first line of defense in securing the safety of our country--we owe it to them to protect them. Because of the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan, the only way these terrorists will be brought to justice and our interrogators will be protected for doing their jobs is for Congress to write a new law codifying procedures for military commissions and clarifying our obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

I firmly believe that enemy combatants in our custody enjoyed ample due process in the military commissions established by the administration, which were brought to a halt by the Supreme Court. The compromise that we are considering here today gives more rights to terrorists who were caught trying to harm America and our allies than our own servicemembers would receive elsewhere, more than is required by the Geneva Conventions--yet some are still demanding more.

Mr. President, it is essential that we protect human dignity at every opportunity, but we have gone well beyond that with this legislation. The legislation before us responds to the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan and seeks to protect national security while ensuring that the terrorists who seek to destroy America are properly dealt with. This bill affords these unlawful enemy combatants rights that they themselves would never consider granting American soldiers. It is beyond reasonable, beyond fair, and beyond time for Congress to act. We must pass this bill and reinstate the programs that, I believe, have been a crucial part of our Nation's security over the last 5 years.

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