Letter to Members of Congress Regarding Military Tribunals
Re: President Bush's Order Establishing Military Tribunals
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Dear Member of Congress:
We are writing to ask you to exercise your oversight responsibilities and reclaim your proper constitutional role with regard to President Bush's "Military Order" of November 13, 2001, permitting the use of military tribunals against any non-citizen accused of terrorism.
The Military Order applies to some 20 million non-citizens in the United States, most of whom are legal residents, and any other non-citizen anywhere else in the world, and could permit indefinite detention without trial in violation of a key detention compromise made in the USA Patriot Act. It could, at the stroke of a pen, be expanded to include United States citizens.
These military tribunals will not observe the same procedures as ordinary courts-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and do not contain the protections available in the ordinary military justice system. They could, at the discretion of the Pentagon, permit secret trials, permit conviction or even execution on only a two-thirds vote of military officers, require less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, deprive a defendant of counsel of their own choosing, and do away with the presumption of innocence.
These fundamental rights not only ensure a fair trial of the accused, but the safety of the public. They help ensure that the government convicts the guilty - and only the guilty - thus making sure that the actual perpetrators of terrorism are not still at large because an innocent person stripped of constitutional protection was wrongly convicted.
While the ACLU does not believe that the use of military tribunals is unconstitutional in all circumstances, the ACLU strongly opposes the Military Order because:
The ACLU strongly urges Members of Congress to consider carefully the breadth of the Military Order, and to reclaim its constitutional power by deciding for itself under what circumstances, if any, military tribunals should be authorized in terrorism cases and to ensure that basic due process protections are preserved.
Laura W. Murphy
Timothy H. Edgar