Why Democrats Oppose Military Commissions Act

For Immediate Release:

October 17, 2006

Contact:

The Wall Street Journal

Your assertion ("Democrats on al Qaeda," Review & Outlook, Oct. 2) that Democrats will not be tough on terrorism because many of us opposed the Republicans' Military Commissions Act is offensive and untrue. The party of Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Clinton takes a back seat to no one in protecting our nation and our people. We have always fought for freedom and confronted tyranny -- and do so today.

Our national security interests are best served when we interrogate and try terrorist suspects in a manner that comports with our American values; produces convictions that will withstand appeals; and honors our international commitments, thereby protecting our troops who fall into enemy hands. We believe the Republican bill failed on each point.

If anything, the Military Commissions Act is not tough enough on terrorists because there is no certainty the act will withstand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. If the act is tied up in litigation and eventually struck down, convicted terrorists could have a "get-out-of-jail-free" card. During the debate on the legislation, we pointed to numerous constitutional challenges that will likely be brought against the act, such as that it unlawfully strips federal courts of jurisdiction over habeas corpus claims; creates ex post facto laws in violation of Article I; purports to make the president the final arbiter of the Geneva Conventions, in violation of Article 3; and because of the way it is written, may apply to U.S. citizens -- as well as non-citizens -- and allow coerced testimony in violation of the 5th, 8th and 14th Amendments.

Steny H. Hoyer (D., Md.)
House Democratic Whip
Ike Skelton (D., Mo.)
Ranking Democrat
House Armed Services Committee

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