The United States Military Commissions Act of 2006, also known as HR-6166, was an Act of Congress signed by President George W. Bush. The Act, in effect, terminated the fundamental protections of individual liberty, which are found in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. For all intents and purposes, the Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act eviscerated the 4th and 5th Amendments, and do serious injury to several others. The Military Commissions Act also expunges the constitutional right of Habeas Corpus.
Military Commissions Act Does Affect US Citizens
Recent application of terror legislation proves American citizens not exempt from intent of bill
Neo-Con government mouthpieces and others are claiming that the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which heralded the official end of the “great experiment” of the American democratic republic, does not affect U.S. citizens, only illegal aliens and foreign terrorists. Recent history of how terror legislation was used to target American citizens clearly indicates the legislation will be used domestically.
A coordinated effort to downplay the implications of the fact that the bill affects American citizens, in the face of extensive coverage on the part of Keith Olbermann, is underway in an attempt to offset the possible repeal of this draconian legislation.
The most recent example of a U.S. citizen being targeted using terror legislation involved BBC investigative journalist Greg Palast, who was pursued by Homeland Security and charged with unauthorized filming of a “critical national security structure,” (an Exxon Oil refinery that was readily available to anyone with an Internet connection at Google Maps), under PATRIOT Act legislation. The charge was later dropped after an activist outcry.
The recent historical precedent for U.S. citizens being charged under legislation originally passed in the name of combating non-US terrorists only, provides clear motivation for the Military Commissions Act to be used in the same way.
Since 9/11 the PATRIOT Act has been used in numerous cases involving American citizens, including strip club owners, toy store proprietors, the homeless, owners of websites, writers, artists, photographers, and common criminals. (of course, many more examples since this article was written in 2006)
Section 802 of the PATRIOT Act is specifically aimed at US citizens and announces any crime as “domestic terrorism”. Citizens can be held without a trial as “Enemy Combatants”. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January 2003 that U.S. citizens can be stripped of their citizenship and held as enemy combatants.
Therefore any legislation passed by Bush automatically applies to American citizens because, as the Washington Post reported, after 9/11 Bush announced his “parallel legal system” in which he could declare any individual on the planet an enemy combatant and order their summary execution.
“The Bush administration is developing a parallel legal system in which terrorism suspects — U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike — may be investigated, jailed, interrogated, tried and punished without legal protections guaranteed by the ordinary system, lawyers inside and outside the government say.”
The trick being played on the American people in falsely assuring them that they are not the target is simple to decode. The Act states that it only applies to enemy combatants yet the President and his legal advisors like Alberto Gonzales have routinely announced that the President has the power to strip Americans of citizenship and declare them to be enemy combatants. The “enemy combatant designation” was ascribed to U.S. citizen Jose Padilla who was interned in a Navy brig for over three years with no charges against him.
Top legal experts and scholars are nearly unanimous that the Military Commissions Act does affect American citizens.
Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman states in the L.A. Times, “The compromise legislation….authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.”
Similarly, law Professor Marty Lederman explains: “this [subsection (ii) of the definition of ‘unlawful enemy combatant’] means that if the Pentagon says you’re an unlawful enemy combatant — using whatever criteria they wish — then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to ‘hostilities’ at all.”
Professor Jonathan Turley, who teaches constitutional law at George Washington University, agrees that the bill contains no provision in which American citizens are exempt from the intent of the legislation, and outlined this during a recent appearance on Keith Olbermann’s MSNBC show.
OLBERMANN: “I want to start by asking you about a specific part of this act that lists one of the definitions of an unlawful enemy combatant as, quote, ‘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.’
“Does that not basically mean that if Mr. Bush or Mr. Rumsfeld say so, anybody in this country, citizen or not, innocent or not, can end up being an unlawful enemy combatant?”
JONATHAN TURLEY: “It certainly does. In fact, later on, it says that if you even give material support to an organization that the president deems connected to one of these groups, you too can be an enemy combatant. And the fact that he appoints this tribunal is meaningless. You know, standing behind him at the signing ceremony was his attorney general, who signed a memo that said that you could torture people, that you could do harm to them to the point of organ failure or death. So if he appoints someone like that to be attorney general, you can imagine who he’s going be putting on this board.”
OLBERMANN: “Does this mean that under this law, ultimately the only thing keeping you, I, or the viewer out of Gitmo is the sanity and honesty of the president of the United States?”
TURLEY: “It does. And it’s a huge sea change for our democracy. The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the president. In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn’t rely on their good motivations. Now we must. And people have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values.