'Trust Us, You're Guilty'

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What does it say about America's political condition that suggesting a defendant really ought to see the evidence against him practically qualifies you for a chapter in Profiles in Courage? At any rate, here are a few guys with no partisan axes to grind by taking on the president who do seem to be acting on principle in the debate over military tribunals:

Brig. Gen. James C. Walker, the top uniformed lawyer for the Marines, said that no civilized country should deny a defendant the right to see the evidence against him and that the United States "should not be the first."

Maj. Gen. Scott C. Black, the judge advocate general of the Army, made the same point, and Rear Adm. Bruce E. MacDonald, the judge advocate general of the Navy, said military law provided rules for using classified evidence, whereby a judge could prepare an unclassified version of the evidence to share with the jury and the accused and his lawyer….

"It would be unacceptable, legally, in my opinion, to give someone the death penalty in a trial where they never heard the evidence against them," said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has played a key role in the drafting of alternative legislation as a member of the Armed Services Committee and a military judge. "'Trust us, you're guilty, we're going to execute you, but we can't tell you why'? That's not going to pass muster; that's not necessary."

Not exactly a ringing defense of civil liberties, but I'll take what I can get. Speaking of which, the same story mentions a few ways in which the Bush administration claims its proposed rules for military tribunals are new and improved: "Among other changes, the proposal sets up tribunals overseen by a judge who could not also serve as part of the jury. Defendants would be given two appeals, and could not be tried twice." So the original plan was to keep trying a defendant until the tribunal reached the right result? Given how the rules are stacked against the accused, that hardly seems necessary. One trial should be plenty.

NEXT: Rumors of Our Demise

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  1. “”the Bush administration claims its proposed rules for military tribunals are new and improved””

    I’m not sure how accepting ideologies and tactics once reserved for tyrants, is improvement.

  2. But George W. Bush says that it is okay to kill people so long as you feel afraid of what they might do.

  3. “In the midst of the current conflict, we simply cannot consider sharing with captured terrorists the highly sensitive intelligence that may be relevant to military-commission prosecutions,? said the lawyer, Steven G. Bradbury, the acting assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel.”

    That is a great argument for keeping these people in comunicado and only giving them government appointed defense attornies with valid security clearances. Look, if the guy is locked up and can’t talk to anyone and can’t hire Lynne Stewart as his attorney, who is he going to tell all of this classified information to? The whole thing is stupid. I really blame the CIA and the Justice Department for this. The culture at Justice in the civilian realm has been out of control for years. Talk to any private defense attorney and they will tell you that Justice are the biggest bunch of unreasonable assholes you have ever met. If they had their way, you wouldn’t see the evidence against you ordinary criminal court. We are going to trust these clowns to give opinions on how we should treat terrorists? In some ways yes, because you know they are going to come up with a completly unfair and over the top system. But no if you have any concern about scopping up innocent people or the tribunals having any credibility.

    I could write for 10 years about how screwed up the JAG corps is, but they have this one right. Justice and CIA need to be slapped down and slapped down hard.

  4. “I really blame the CIA and the Justice Department for this.”

    Yeah, because they’re not part of the executive branch and, hence, the president has no control over them.

    Oh, wait, they are part of the executive branch.

  5. The Bushies and the Republican leadership are trying to pull another “Homeland Security Bill” strategy. After refusing for years to (create the DHS/provide a legal system for trying accused terrorists), they finally give in to their critics’ demands. They then load up the bill with ideological poison pills (political appointees like Mike Brown instead of civil servants in the DHS/flagrant violations of the rules of evidence in the military tribunals), so that they can accuse the Democrats of (not caring about the security of the American people/not wanting to punish terrorists) just before an election.

    This time, however, the public, Congress, and the press aren’t in the mood to be obedient sheep for Rovian ploys like this.

    So, in summary, Lindsay Graham wants suicide bombers to kill your granny.

  6. But George W. Bush says that it is okay to kill people so long as you feel afraid of what they might do.

    So do feminists. Your point?

  7. Bob Smith,

    I’m sure that went over some heads. 😉

  8. So does Florida.

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