Pursuant to Waldon's 12/18/07 piece calling attention to the FISA issue, it is appropriate to praise Sen. Dodd's calling for restoration of FISA reviews in the Senate. Kudos to him for his profound presentation to the Senate calling for the restoration of FISA review of surveilence hence adherence to the U.S. Constitution so frequently violated by the Bush Administration. Your presentation will stand with the great ones made in the Senate. Move over Sen. John C. Calhoun. This issue is at the core of preventing the U.S. from sliding down the slippery slope to totalitarianism that the country is currently on. A partial text of his statement is shown below.
Thoughts on My New Legislation, the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act
Submitted by Chris Dodd on December 1, 2006 - 6:35pm.
Well I was terribly disappointed when the Senate of the United States adopted the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This was a major step back for our country in my view. I was terribly disappointed that the Senate of the United States decided to retreat from the Geneva Conventions, retreat from the insistence of avoiding torture as a tactic for gaining information. It seems to me that this was a blow for those of us who really are interested in bringing terrorists to the bar of justice, getting convictions, providing protection for our own soldiers and building the kind of international support we’re going to need to have in the 21st century.
The reason I care a lot about this beyond just what’s happened here, is that I grew up in a household where my father talked about the rule of law all the time. He was a prosecutor in 1945 and ‘46 at the Nuremberg trials. And he believed very strongly, as did Robert Jackson, who was the Supreme Court Justice who was the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, that the defendants at Nuremberg should be governed by the rule of law, that they would actually get lawyers, present evidence. There were people who had brutally incinerated 6 million Jews, and were responsible for the deaths of 50 million people as the result of their aggressive war. And many people felt they should just be summarily executed. In fact, Winston Churchill advocated that result, the Soviets did at the time, and the French went along with that result. It was only the United States that said ‘No we’re different than that and we need to show the world that there is a difference between what the Nazis did and who we are.’
And so they prevailed in the argument of giving these thugs, these brutal individuals, something, which they never gave to their victims. And that was a day in court, to present evidence, to make a case for themselves. And it’s that standard upon which we built the international relationships in the post World War II period, that the United States can be so deeply proud of. In a sense we’re alone when we started and today most nations embrace the international institutions that we helped create. The irony of ironies, that the United States at a critical moment in the 21st century would walk away from the very institutions that we helped build was a source of my great disappointment. Knowing the genesis in history of how those organizations had been created.
So the results of the Military Commissions Act was a dark day, in my view, for our country. A major step back, to walk away from habeus corpus, to walk away from the Geneva Conventions, to allow for torture to be used again. Let me tell you why the torture, and Geneva Conventions, and habeus corpus, provisions of that bill are so troubling to me. First and foremost, here we need to get convictions of these people who are charged with terrorist activities against our country. My view as a result of the adoption of this legislation in October – that we’re going to have a very hard time getting convictions. I suspect many of these cases will now languish in the courts for years, arguing over the rights, the habeus corpus rights. So rather than getting convictions and seeing people punished who would do us great harm, I think as a result of this legislation being adopted, we’re going to have a much harder time getting those convictions and punishing the people responsible for doing what they have to our country and to others.
Secondly, we’re told by every expert in the field of intelligence gathering that the worst information you ever get from a person you’re soliciting information from is to torture them. John McCain will speak eloquently about what he went through as a prisoner of war. The kind of false information he was willing to give them, as a result of what he went through, as a result of torture. So torture is not a good way to get information. Why in the world we would be sanctioning torture as a way to gather information I think is a major major mistake.
Thirdly, of course our own soldiers and sailors and marines are in harms way. They could be apprehended, they could be caught; do we want them subjected to the same torture that we’d be subjecting others to? The Geneva Convention has provided a veil of protection for our own military people should they be apprehended, so they wouldn’t be harmed under these international rules.
And lastly, here the Geneva Convention and these rules are critically important if you’re going to build the kind of international support. If the United States goes off on its own, walks away from these international agreements, and I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t be modified in some way. But there’s a way of doing that, not unilaterally but by working with others who are also sponsors and signatories to these agreements. If you walk away alone and then you turn around and ask the world to be supportive on matters which are critical to us and to them, it becomes far more difficult to achieve those goals.
So for all of those reasons, I believe this was a major step backwards and as a result of that I’ve introduced legislation to make those corrections. Here, would restore habeus corpus for individuals held in U.S. custody, which is exactly what the Supreme Court has ruled. It narrows the definition of unlawful enemy combatants so we have clarity on that. It prevents the use of evidence in court gained through torture so that we stop that practice. It empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence that has been achieved through unreliable means, and it authorizes the court of appeals of the armed forces to review decisions by military commissions. And it restores the Geneva Convention provisions which are critically important.
So that’s what the bill does. I’m urging people to be supportive of it. I’m hopeful we can get some action on it in this new Congress. If you are so inclined to believe we are heading in the right direction – and I have posted on my website the specifics of the legislation so you can look at it with greater clarity – then I’d be interested in having you let members of Congress know and others that this is something we should get right. We shouldn’t let that law passed in October to stand on the books. I think it was passed primarily as a political action. To try to embarrass people in the 2006 elections about who’s for battling terrorism and who isn’t. But it’s a major step backwards for our country, a major step backwards in my view on effective means of dealing with terrorist activities. So again I urge you to support the legislation.