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A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

White House Bill Proposes System To Try Detainees

This article originally ran in the New York Times on July 26, 2006:

By DAVID S. CLOUD and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
Published: July 26, 2006
WASHINGTON, July 25 — Legislation drafted by the Bush administration setting out new rules on bringing terror detainees to trial would allow hearsay evidence to be introduced unless it was deemed “unreliable” and would permit defendants to be excluded from their own trials if necessary to protect national security, according to a copy of the proposal.
The bill, which officials said was being circulated within the administration, is not final, but it indicates the direction of the administration’s approach for dealing with a Supreme Court decision that struck down the tribunals established to try terror suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The 32-page bill preserves the idea of using military commissions to prosecute terror suspects and makes modest changes in their procedural rules, including several expanded protections for defendants, many of them drawn from the military’s legal code. But the proposal also sets up a possible confrontation with lawmakers who have called for modeling the trials on the military’s rules for courts-martial, which would allow defendants more rights.

The draft measure describes court-martial procedure as “not practicable in trying enemy combatants” because doing so would “require the government to share classified information” and would exclude “hearsay evidence determined to be probative and reliable.”
President Bush reviewed the bill last week in a meeting with his top advisers, according to a senior White House official, who said the advisers told Mr. Bush that they were comfortable with the bill and were ready to present it to military lawyers.

When the legislation is in its final form, the administration will have to ask a member of Congress to introduce it.

The White House would not comment on the specifics of the bill.
“We are in the middle of a process of getting reaction from the various stakeholders, and that is why we circulated a draft,” said Dana Perino, a deputy White House press secretary. “We are working to strike a balance of a fair system of justice that deals with terrorists who don’t recognize the rules of war.”

But one former White House official, granted anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said the administration was circulating the measure among military lawyers at the Pentagon with the intention of winning over Republican senators who have led the calls for using court-martial procedures, including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former military lawyer.

For the whole story click here.

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