The Bush administration likes to keep its fullest range of options open. It is known as the unitary presidency. You will be happy to know that the U.S. now has a very full range of legalized options for dealing with its enemies, via the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
Unfortunately, the quality of MSM coverage of this very significant event spanned the full range of journalistic service to citizens, from adequate to excellent to poor:
Adequate coverage – Reuters published the full political story of the enactment of the law authorizing harsh interrogation. The New York Times coverage characterizes the signing as a move “to turn the political debate back to the war on terror – a strong issue for Republicans – and awar from scandals . . .” A Washington Post story on the bill-signing emphasized the administration’s justifications as well as the potential for extended legal controversy in the law’s future. The LA Times published an adequate story about the bill signing, including Congress’ vote tallies for the bill. To quote,
Both chambers of Congress approved the legislation last month in votes largely along party lines. In the House, 34 Democrats joined 219 Republicans in voting for the bill; 160 Democrats, seven Republicans and one independent voted against it. In the Senate, 12 Democrats joined 53 Republicans in voting for it; one independent and one Republican joined 32 Democrats in voting against it.
Excellent coverage comes from two faithful watchdog groups – Amnesty International wrote the very best article about the provisions of the U.S. Military Commissions Act of 2006: “Turning bad policy into bad law.” The piece begins,
In recent days, human rights violations perpetrated by the USA throughout the “war on terror” have in effect been given the congressional stamp of approval. With the passing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 by the US House of Representatives on 27 September and the Senate on 28 September, Congress has turned bad executive policy into bad law. This document looks back on the evolution of the executive’s “war on terror” detention policies, in order to illustrate the sort of violations in which Congress, through inaction and now legislation, has become complicit. Amnesty International will continue to campaign for the USA’s “war on terror” detention policies and practices to be brought into full compliance with international law, and for repeal of any law that fails to meet this test.
And the American Civil Liberties Union website post was understandably furious over the new law. The ACLU 2006 Membership Conference met Oct. 15-17 in Washington, and portions of the meeting were broadcast on C-SPAN. (RealPlayer link: rtsp://video.c-span.org/15days/e101706_aclu.rm) To quote from the posting,
President Bush Signs Un-American Military Commissions Act, ACLU Says New Law Undermines Due Process and the Rule of Law (10/17/2006)
WASHINGTON – As President Bush signed S. 3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed outrage and called the new law one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history.
So it continues to be left to the world wide web to provide the best news coverage about so-called protections for U.S. citizens. Watchdogs, bloggers, Democratic Senators and courageous members of the military are all speaking out:
- The Democratic Daily carried Senator Kennedy’s statement.
- Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT, also issued a statement, as did Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin.
- Global Security.org published an important letter expressing the concerns of the military.
- The blogger at Is That Legal? posts on the core issue for me, namely, what about Americans as unlawful combatants?
- NPR explores the question of civil liberties infringement rather fully.
- Alternet’s provocative headline reads, “American Prison Camps Are on the Way”
- Balkanization posts on the detention question “Wednesday, September 27, 2006. Imagine Giving Donald Rumsfeld Unbounded Discretion to Detain You Indefinitely, by Marty Lederman”
- AntiWar.com’s Justin Raimundo asks, “Are You an ‘Unlawful Combatant’? Maybe so…”
Poorest media coverage failed to adequately address the remaining civil liberties issues. Examples include: 1) Yahoo! News wrote a far too friendly article. 2) MyWay News also fails to cover the provisions fully.
The full range of military options regarding North Korea also remain open, you will be happy to know. This is according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I quote from MyWay News,
In Japan, Rice said she reaffirmed President Bush’s pledge, made the day of the North’s test last week, “that the United States has the will and the capability to meet the full range – and I underscore the full range – of its deterrent and security commitments to Japan,” Rice said following discussions with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso.
Rice’s words were a reminder to U.S. allies that the United States does not want to see a new nuclear arms race in Asia, but will likely be taken also as a warning to North Korea that it could face the U.S. nuclear arsenal if it used a nuclear weapon on a neighbor.
The United States has repeatedly said it does not intend to attack North Korea or topple its communist regime.
- Wikipedia on “Enemy Combatant”
- Congressional Research Service – 61 page pdf: “Detention of American Citizens as Enemy Combatants”