A video report from CNN’s Jack Cafferty says that buried deep within the pending plan to create military tribunals for those suspected of terrorism is amnesty for present U.S. officials.
He said that President Bush “is trying to pardon himself” with the plan, which is in the last stage of congressional endorsement and next will go to the president’s desk.
“Here’s the deal:” Cafferty said. “Under the War Crimes Act, violations of the Geneva Conventions are felonies, in some cases punishable by death. When the Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Convention applied to al-Qaida and Taliban detainees, President Bush and his boys were suddenly in big trouble.
“They’ve been working these prisoners over pretty good. In an effort to avoid possible prosecution they’re trying to cram this bill through Congress before the end of the week before Congress adjourns,” he said.
“The reason there’s such a rush to do this? If the Democrats get control of the House in November this kind of legislation probably wouldn’t pass,” he said.
Cafferty said the “real disgrace” was that Sen. Bill Frist and U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert “and their Republican stooges apparently don’t see anything wrong with this. I really do wonder sometimes what we’re becoming in this country.”
The plan to authorize military tribunals came after a June ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that said the White House’s earlier parameters for putting those accused of terrorism on trial wouldn’t be allowed.
That plan had held that those suspects could be put before military commissions the president would assemble.
The House approved the new plan 253-168. It would outline interrogation tactics and set up procedures for trials for a couple dozen suspects held at a military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Those include Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who’s accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Senate voted 65-34 for the plan, and the remaining step was for the House to endorse Senate changes in the proposal.
Sen. John McCain, who was tortured as an enemy prisoner during the Vietnam War, said the nation owes it to its fighting soldiers to affirm the Geneva Conventions. He says this legislation ensures that.
President Bush said in a statement that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 would allow to continue “one of America’s most potent tools in fighting the War on Terror.”
A review of federal legislation actually shows that the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 provides that “it shall be a defense” for anyone in any civil or criminal action arising from the “detention and interrogation of aliens” suspected of terrorism simply that their actions were authorized and “determined to be lawful at the time.”
A provision of the 2006 act allows that such a defense shall apply “to any aspect of the detention, treatment, or trial of any person detained at any time” since Sept. 11, 2001; and to any claim or cause of action from that.
A report in the Chicago Tribune summarized the bill as shielding U.S. officials from prosecution under the War Crimes Act retroactively to 1997. That’s when the original law was passed criminalizing violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
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