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Pentagon civilian counsel urged military lawyers to sign letters backing Bush bill: NYT

[JURIST] Top US military lawyers signed two letters [PDF text] sent to Congress earlier this week supporting President Bush's proposed legislation [PDF text] on military commissions [JURIST news archive] after being urged to do so by the Pentagon's politically-appointed top civilian counsel, the New York Times reported Saturday. Members of the Judge Advocate General's Corps [Wikipedia backgrounder] signed the letters Wednesday addressed to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) [official website] and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) [official website], the respective chairs of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II [official profile], nominated to the post by Bush in early 2001, called the meeting of the military lawyers, who after what the Times calls "hours of negotiation" eventually agreed to endorse part, but not all, of the president's proposal. The specific parts of the bill the military lawyers said they had no objection to and even found "helpful" related to prisoners' rights under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials] and the definition of crimes under the War Crimes Act [text]. The Bush administration circulated the letters from the Judge Advocates General Thursday morning.

The letter apparently did not sway members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who subsequently voted [JURIST report] 15-9 Thursday to send their own bill [PDF text] on military commissions, which differs from the administration's legislation, to the full Senate for approval. Some Republican Senators opposed to the Bush administration plan said the military lawyers may have been coerced into signing the letter, although Deputy Air Force JAG Maj. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap Jr. denied the allegation. The New York Times has more.

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