Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Minor Cosmetic Surgery

It now appears that at least one of the two "security" bills before Congress will get passed and sent to the Emperor by the end of this week. While the NSA wire tapping bill probably will not get out of the House in time to reconcile with the Senate version, the bill dealing with interrogation and trial of detainees probably will pass the Senate quickly enough for reconciliation. From the NY Times:

...Republicans were optimistic about eliminating last-minute concerns over a separate measure laying out rules for interrogating terrorism suspects and trying them before military tribunals. They said they were hoping to send the bill to Mr. Bush by the end of the week for a signing ceremony that could help them kick off the home stretch of the campaign with a message that Republicans were taking strong steps to protect the nation from terror attacks.

...Democrats, while being careful to say that they had made no decision to block the detainee bill, expressed rising concerns about changes to the proposal that they said went beyond what Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, had described Monday as merely “technical changes.”

And what were these changes?

In one change, the original language said that a suspect had the right to “examine and respond to” all evidence used against him. Mr. Graham and his colleagues in resisting the White House, Senators John W. Warner of Virginia and John McCain of Arizona, had insisted that the provision was necessary to prevent so-called secret trials. The bill submitted late Monday dropped the word “examine” and left only “respond to,” reviving complaints about secret trials, this time from Democrats.

In another, the original compromise said that evidence seized “outside the United States” could be admitted in court even if it had been obtained without a search warrant, a provision Republicans and Democrats agreed was necessary to deal with the unusual circumstances of seizing evidence on the battlefield.

The bill introduced Monday dropped the words “outside the United States,” which Democrats said meant that prosecutors could ignore American legal standards on search warrants within the country. The bill also broadened the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant, from anyone “engaged in hostilities against the United States” to include anyone who “has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.”

The Democrats sat on the sidelines during this whole dog-and-pony show between the three "mavericks" (McCain, Warner, and Graham) and the White House, thereby losing an opportunity to make the noise necessary for clarifying these Constitutional issues to the American public. Now they are faced with the prospect of the choice between blocking a bill they have to know is constitutionally defective and thereby setting loose the GOP mantra of being weak on security, or giving in and letting the bill pass. Once again, they have been outplayed tactically.

The bill is still deeply flawed, and should be defeated. Unfortunately, it will probably pass, setting up a future Supreme Court case. It should never have happened.


Blogger Eli said...

Unfortunately, it will probably pass, setting up a future Supreme Court case.

Thank God we can rely on the Supreme Court to defend the Constitution.

7:11 PM  

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