The Bush administration’s controversial military commissions and detainee treatment bill is one step closer to being signed into law.
On Wednesday, the House approved its version of the measure, leaving it to a vote in the Senate today. Under the new bill, detainees would be prevented from challenging their imprisonment and denied access to evidence used against them.
Critics of the bill say it also gives too broad a definition of who can be ruled an “unlawful enemy combatant”; and provides little protection against detainee mistreatment. The administration was forced to come up with new procedures following a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Guantanamo detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan.
On Wednesday, Hamdan’s lawyer, US Navy Lieutenant Commander Charlie Swift, said the new bill could again be ruled illegal:
"They're basically recreating, almost identically, the same trial the Supreme Court struck down that said they violated Common Article 3 and also violated the UCMJ at that time, and just basically didn't provide fundamental, what we call due process, for a fair trial. And no amount of saying that it's a fair trial makes it a fair trial and that seems to be the bill's biggest thing. We claim it's a fair trial but we haven't really changed any of the things the Supreme Court found substantively problematic."
Just one in five Democrats voted with Republicans in the House Wednesday. But Democrats say they won’t challenge the bill because they do not want to appear weak on terror ahead of the November elections.
In an editorial today, the New York Times writes: "Americans of the future won't remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration. They'll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation's version of the Alien and Sedition Acts."