Friday, May 15, 2009

Dodd and the Terrorists

In November, 2006, U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd introduced into Congress a measure he called the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act.

Dodd introduced himself, according to a posting on his web site as “an outspoken opponent of the Military Commission Act of 2006.”

The current law, which Dodd’s bill sought to reform, Dodd predicted, “will be the subject of endless legal challenges.” In order to avoid such legal challenges, his bill, he said, “would amend existing law in order to have an effective process for bringing terrorists to justice."

Equally importantly, the bill Dodd introduced would, the senator said, “also seek to ensure that U.S. servicemen and women are afforded the maximum protection of a strong international legal framework guaranteed by respect for such provisions as the Geneva Conventions and other international standards, and to restore America’s moral authority as the leader in the world in advancing the rule of law.

“I take a backseat to no one when it comes to protecting this country from terrorists,” Sen. Dodd said. “But there is a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this. It’s clear the people who perpetrated these horrendous crimes against our country and our people have no moral compass and deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But in taking away their legal rights, the rights first codified in our country’s Constitution, we’re taking away our own moral compass, as well.”

The meaning of that last sentence, if sentences have any meaning at all, indicates that Dodd favors investing all suspected foreign terrorists in U.S. custody with the whole panoply of rights enjoyed by U.S. citizens.

On his site, Dodd listed the reforms his legislation would insure. The Effective Terrorist Prosecution Act:

“Restores Habeas Corpus protections to detainees

“Narrows the definition of unlawful enemy combatant to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States who are not lawful combatants

“Bars information gained through coercion from being introduced as evidence in trials

“Empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable

“Authorizes the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the Military commissions

“Limits the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and makes that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight

“Provides for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to determine the constitutionally of its provisions.”
In November of 2006, Dodd and other anti-war Democrats were in their oppositional mode.

Since that time, Barack Obama has become president; former President George Bush’s strategy in Iraq has been successful enough to permit the new commander-in-chief to begin moving troops out of Iraq and employ them in a new military salient in Afghanistan and Pakistan; the military prison in Cuba that had engaged Dodd and other Democrats in a rhetorically effective assault on Bush and other Republicans is, so we've been told, on the point of being closed, though the president has not sought to move unreleased hard core terrorists imprisoned to the mainland where, Dodd hopes, they may be able to take advantage of the provisions in his Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act; and now President Obama, according to recent news reports, has “outraged” human rights groups by reviving “the Bush-era military commission system for prosecuting terrorism suspects … reversing a campaign pledge to rely instead on federal courts and the traditional military justice system.”

Echoing Dodd, when the senator publicly opposed the military commissions, Washington advocacy director of Human Rights Watch Tom Malinowski said, “I am afraid the stench of Guantanamo will remain. Anything that goes by the name 'military commissions' will unfortunately be seen around the world as a continuation of the old system. It is the worst of possible worlds."

In the Los Angeles Times report picked up by the main stream media, it has been reported that “Three retired senior officers who served in key positions in the military justice system wrote to Obama on Thursday in an attempt to derail a revival of the commissions. They warned against an ‘erosion of international confidence’ in U.S. justice.

"Our federal criminal justice system has capably handled hundreds of complex terrorism cases,” the signatories to a letter written to Obama said, “ . . . rendering decisions that are widely respected as legitimate.”

These are precisely the points that induced Dodd to flame-out against such injustices and offenses against international justice in his Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act.

So it seems legitimate to ask whether Dodd will continue to press his signature issue now that the commander-in-chief – his commander-in-chief – has, since assuming the burdens of office, reverted from his previous position on such issues when he was campaigning.

During his campaign in February 2008, Obama described the Guantanamo trials as "a flawed military commission system that has failed to convict anyone of a terrorist act since the 9/11 attacks and that has been embroiled in legal challenges."

Why was Dodd’s opinion on his president’s transmutation into former president Bush not solicited in the stories printed in the main stream media? Surely there is one unintimidated national reporter in Connecticut who has not been sliced and diced from newpapers in the state now fallen into the clutches of owners more concerned with the bottom line than responsible reporting.

And where is the son of the Nuremgerg prosecutor? What flower pot is Dodd hiding behind -- now that President Obama has “grown” sufficiently in office to realize that problems don’t disappear when political opponents are vanquished?
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