Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Military Commissions Act and Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District

Tomorrow evening, January 11th and again on January 24th, the Upper Bucks for Democracy and Coalition for Peace Action (Central Bucks) groups are hosting a discussion on the Military Commissions Act, with guest speakers who have recently been to Guantanamo. Conversation may or may not get around to local politics but this was one of the topics covered in at least some of the Inquirer editorial board's interviews with congressional candidates. (A list of interviews is still available on their website). Then candidate and now Representative Patrick Murphy is questioned about the MCA in an interview on October 3, 2006, because on September 30th he had been quoted in the paper as saying he supported that legislation. ("After protest, Specter toes the line," by Steve Goldstein)

I transcribed his comments for the curious. While I took far more care with this than with rough notes from debates and such, those who want absolute perfection should listen to the audio file themselves. Start at minute 21 and listen through minute 25. Spoken words have a lot more umms and uhs and start overs than do written words. I left out some of these when including them made the written transcript look like gibberish. Putting in punctuation was very hit or miss.

Here goes:

Q: We had the experience last week of Congress passing new rules on detainees and interrogation. When you were here, Mr. Murphy, in the spring you spoke movingly about experiences you had in Iraq as a military lawyer. I am surprised to read in our paper last week that you would have approved what moved through Congress last week. Could you care to explain that vote? I can’t square it with what you said last spring.

PM: The Military Commissions Act. We have over 400 detainees in Guantanamo Bay that have been put there. They have never had a right to see an attorney, they’ve never had a trial. They’re there 5 years later. People like John McCain have said that’s a disgrace. That we just put them there with no turning back That is why begrudgingly I said I would support the Military Commissions Act. It does several things

1) Gives them the authority, the Office of Military Commissions, under Gen. Altenburg, who’s overseeing it, the Army Judge Advocate, someone who will get the wheels moving so that they actually see the light of day, they actually have military tribunals , they actually have military commissions.

2) Right to counsel, an absolute right to counsel. This is very important.

3) Right to see the see the evidence. The top secret evidence, that was a compromise. They can’t see very top secret evidence but they can see an executive summary of it. This is a compromise good enough.

4) I have a problem with taking away the right of habeas corpus – that was completely unconstitutional. I said it, it didn’t go into the news reports. You can’t take away a constitutional right even if Congress wants to passes it. Just as if Mike says he wants to pass a law that says no flag burning, but that is unconstitutional according to the Supreme Court, that’s a first amendment right. That part of the Military Commissions Act is unconstitutional and that part will be struck down.

Will this get the ball rolling, will I support it, will I want to bring these terrorists to justice? I reluctantly said I agreed to it. That will get the ball rolling.

Q: You don’t think the agreement in regard to interrogation techniques undercut what the army just did with its manual for interrogation techniques?

PM: I believe it was more clear, when it talked about specifically how the United States of America will not conduct nor condone torture. It will not coerce evidence. The president did not want that. That was the compromise that came out, that will be implemented, that we cannot do that. We cannot have, as someone who has served in Al Rhasheed Baghdad, who sometimes worked side by side with CIA, who was responsible for detainee facilities, we can’t say we have two standards in America. Black ops can do this, regular forces can do that. They work hand in hand in those situations. We can’t have two different standards. We have to be very clear. The Military Commissions Act said we would abide by Geneva and Hague conventions and international law.

Q: That still leaves it up to the discretion of the president to interpret and how those conventions apply, which is how we got into this in the first place. Didn’t we go all around the corner and back where we began?

PM: My interpretation of the bill is different. We can interpret and change field manuals, which needed to be updated, but it was clear in saying we are not going to be in violation of Geneva and Hague conventions. Which are clear that we cannot torture combatants, either lawful or unlawful.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Attention Comrades,
Please visit http://ministryoflove.wordpress.com to learn about our creative protest of the Military Commissions Act.
Regards,
O'Brien

Anonymous said...

Attention Comrades,
Please visit http://ministryoflove.wordpress.com to learn about our creative protest of the Military Commissions Act.
Regards,
O'Brien

David said...

if you are outraged by Cully Stimson's comments, want the restoration of the writ of habeas corpus and the reversal of the Military Commissions Act get involved at:

projecthamad.org

Join the project