Hold Bush to the law in terror-suspect cases
The Republican-led Congress can regain a measure of dignity and behave as a co-equal branch of government by demanding President Bush follow the law in the treatment of suspected terrorists.
On Wednesday in a speech in which the president admitted the existence of secret CIA prisons overseas, Bush asked Congress to fight terrorism on his terms. Those means and methods have been repudiated by the U.S. Supreme Court and legions of civil and military legal experts.
The president wants Congress to legalize military tribunals, allow evidence obtained by coercion and hearsay and deny suspects access to classified information.
He must enlist the support of Congress because the court said the interrogations and trials violated the Constitution and Geneva Conventions.
No one disputes the 14 suspects under arrest are bad men — or evil doers, as the president might say — but they should be held accountable without undermining the legal protections and values the country is spending blood and treasure to defend.
Congress has been compliant and mute since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. and throughout the Iraq war.
There has been little skepticism of White House plans and no formal challenges during the scandals at the Abu Ghraib prison and similar instances that alienated allies and further enraged our enemies.
As the Bush administration was hiding prisoners overseas and denying it, the military was reworking the Army Field Manual to clarify acceptable treatment of prisoners, especially those subjected to rigorous interrogation.
Military authorities understood their own troops stand to suffer the consequences of the U.S. declaring the prohibitions of the Geneva Conventions no longer apply.
Three senior GOP senators — John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Warner of Virginia — want to prohibit the use of testimony obtained through coercive interrogation, restrict the use of hearsay evidence and give judges the right to decide whether defendants should be allowed to see classified information that could be used against them.
Let us hope a former prisoner of war, a former military judge and a former secretary of the Navy can persuade others to make the White House obey the law as terrorists are brought to justice.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company