Bush administration defends military commissions plan before senators

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] confirmed before a Senate panel Wednesday that the Bush administration is drafting legislation [JURIST report] authorizing military commissions [JURIST news archive] for terror detainees that will allow hearsay evidence and coerced testimony to be admitted against terrorism suspects, limit their rights against pretrial self-incrimination and withhold classified evidence from them. Those provisions would be key departures from the Uniform Code of Military Justice [text], which governs court-martial proceedings and which the administration is using as a basis for the military tribunal legislation. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee [hearing notice], Gonzales said [text]:

... [W]e believe it is important that the military commission process for unlawful terrorist combatants be separate from the court-martial process which is used to try our own service members, both because military necessity would not permit the strict application of all court-martial procedures, and because there are relevant differences between the procedures appropriate for trying our service members and those appropriate for trying the terrorists who seek to destroy us.
Gonzales said the administration will propose adding military commission procedures to Title 10 of the US Code, immediately following the UCMJ. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

Meanwhile the administration's plan encountered resistance in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which on Wednesday heard testimony [text] from Steven G. Bradbury [SourceWatch profile], acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel [official website]. Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] promised to fight any proposal that allows the Secretary of Defense to determine what offenses could be tried by the tribunals, calling such a delegation of authority "risky at best" because it could be struck down by the Supreme Court. AP has more.

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].

 

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