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March 04, 2007

What it will take to begin to restore the United States from where the Bush Administration has decimated it

The New York Times lays out a roadmap in this editorial, and as a list, it's a good start. Had to save it, before it goes behind the firewall in a few weeks.

Link: The Must-Do List - New York Times.

Editorial

The Must-Do List

Published: March 4, 2007
 

The Bush administration’s assault on some of the founding principles of American democracy marches onward despite the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections. The new Democratic majorities in Congress can block the sort of noxious measures that the Republican majority rubber-stamped. But preventing new assaults on civil liberties is not nearly enough.

Five years of presidential overreaching and Congressional collaboration continue to exact a high toll in human lives, America’s global reputation and the architecture of democracy. Brutality toward prisoners, and the denial of their human rights, have been institutionalized; unlawful spying on Americans continues; and the courts are being closed to legal challenges of these practices.

It will require forceful steps by this Congress to undo the damage. A few lawmakers are offering bills intended to do just that, but they are only a start. Taking on this task is a moral imperative that will show the world the United States can be tough on terrorism without sacrificing its humanity and the rule of law.

Today we’re offering a list — which, sadly, is hardly exhaustive — of things that need to be done to reverse the unwise and lawless policies of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Many will require a rewrite of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, an atrocious measure pushed through Congress with the help of three Republican senators, Arlen Specter, Lindsey Graham and John McCain; Senator McCain lent his moral authority to improving one part of the bill and thus obscured its many other problems.

Our list starts with three fundamental tasks:

Restore Habeas Corpus   

One of the new act’s most indecent provisions denies anyone Mr. Bush labels an “illegal enemy combatant” the ancient right to challenge his imprisonment in court. The arguments for doing this were specious.

[...]

Stop Illegal Spying   

Mr. Bush’s program of intercepting Americans’ international calls and e-mail messages without a warrant has not ceased.

[...]

Ban Torture, Really

 

The provisions in the Military Commissions Act that Senator McCain trumpeted as a ban on torture are hardly that. It is still largely up to the president to decide what constitutes torture and abuse for the purpose of prosecuting anyone who breaks the rules.

[...]

Close the C.I.A. Prisons

[...]

Account for ‘Ghost Prisoners’

[...]

Ban Extraordinary Rendition

 

This is the odious practice of abducting foreign citizens and secretly flying them to countries where everyone knows they will be tortured. It is already illegal to send a prisoner to a country if there is reason to believe he will be tortured. The administration’s claim that it got “diplomatic assurances” that prisoners would not be abused is laughable.

[...]

Tighten the Definition of Combatant   

“Illegal enemy combatant” is assigned a dangerously broad definition in the Military Commissions Act. It allows Mr. Bush — or for that matter anyone he chooses to designate to do the job — to apply this label to virtually any foreigner anywhere, including those living legally in the United States.

Screen Prisoners Fairly and Effectively   

When the administration began taking prisoners in Afghanistan, it did not much bother to screen them. Hundreds of innocent men were sent to Gitmo, where far too many remain to this day. The vast majority will never even be brought before tribunals and still face indefinite detention without charges.

[...]

Ban Tainted Evidence   

The Military Commissions Act and the regulations drawn up by the Pentagon to put it into action, are far too permissive on evidence obtained through physical abuse or coercion. This evidence is unreliable. The method of obtaining it is an affront.

Ban Secret Evidence   

Under the Pentagon’s new rules for military tribunals, judges are allowed to keep evidence secret from a prisoner’s lawyer if the government persuades the judge it is classified. The information that may be withheld can include interrogation methods, which would make it hard, if not impossible, to prove torture or abuse.

      

[KAFKA WOULD BE TURNING OVER IN HIS GRAVE! Or maybe he'd expect such an absurd and ridiculous excuse for a "trial." That this ever happened with a straight face puts the United States RIGHT BACK IN SALEM, MA CIRCA 1692, and with about as much credibility.]

Better Define ‘Classified’ Evidence   

The military commission rules define this sort of secret evidence as “any information or material that has been determined by the United States government pursuant to statute, executive order or regulation to require protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national security.” This is too broad, even if a president can be trusted to exercise the power fairly and carefully. Mr. Bush has shown he cannot be trusted to do that.

Respect the Right to Counsel   

Soon after 9/11, the Bush administration allowed the government to listen to conversations and intercept mail between some prisoners and their lawyers. This had the effect of suspending their right to effective legal representation.

[...]


March 4, 2007 at 10:56 AM in Democracy | Permalink

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