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White House circulating draft military commissions bill

[JURIST] The Bush administration has begun circulating a draft bill to authorize military trials for terror detainees [JURIST news archive] at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], according to a report in Wednesday's New York Times. The draft bill, written by acting Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury [SourceWatch profile], would allow the use of reliable hearsay evidence and would permit the court to bar defendants from their own trials if they present a threat to national security. It would also prohibit suspects from filing future lawsuits alleging that their rights under the Geneva Conventions were violated. The legislation would, however, expand protections for the terror suspects, including a ban against the use of statements obtained through torture. The Bush administration agreed to work with Congress [JURIST report] to authorize military commissions for terror detainees after the US Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [opinion text] that military commissions as initially constituted lacked proper legal authorization [JURIST report].

The draft bill, however, will likely set up a debate between lawmakers [JURIST report] who supported the military tribunal procedures and those who want to model the trials after courts-martial, which grant more rights to defendants. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) [official website], a former Air Force lawyer, has led the campaign to give detainees more rights during their trials, while Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) [official website] wants to grant terror suspects even greater rights than court-martial proceedings, hoping to encourage better treatment of American troops captured overseas. Likewise, top military lawyers have pressed [JURIST report] the Senate Armed Services Committee to create legislation based on the Uniform Code of Military Justice [text] and the courts-martial system. While still drafting the bill, the Bush administration has circulated the proposal throughout the administration and to several military lawyers for recommendations. David Cloud and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times have more.

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