Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Perhaps most alarmingly, the new version contains a much broader definition of "unlawful enemy combatant." The "compromise" bill from last week defined "unlawful enemy combatant" as "an individual engaged in hostilities against the United States who is not a law enemy combatant." The new bill would expand the definition to cover:
(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or (ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.
Two problems here. In (i), what has to be purposeful? The support, or the support of hostilities? It's ambiguous, and when it's ambiguous, you can't trust the Bush administration. For them, ambiguous intelligence was enough to go to war; you surely can't trust them to interpret "purposeful support" to mean "purposeful support of hostilities." If you write a check, and sign it, and it takes three days to clear (so you could have changed your mind and cancelled the check), your support was surely purposeful. The language needs to be cleared up so that it is clear that if you support hostilities with knowledge aforethought, that you are guilty of a crime.
Second, it says the President or Secretary of Defense can have any appointed tribunal make a determination that you're an unlawful enemy combatant. Note the lack of restrictions on how that determination can be made. It doesn't require the tribunal to find that you were an enemy combatant "because...".
It is completely unacceptable, and supporting this bill is unconscionable... for a Democrat or a Republican. Forget whether the intent is good or bad; even if it's got good intent, the bill is so poorly written and so badly cobbled together that it just isn't workable. It must be defeated.