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View From the Hill--Part the First

Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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April 20, 2007

Much of our responsibility here at is to update you kind readers on the legislative prospects for restoring habeas and due process. So, I’m going to create a regular feature here, where we rundown the view from the Hill. I’ll post new dispatches as events warrant.First off, there are basically three ways the MCA and the problem provisions in the Detainee Treatment Act (the DTA, for those in the know) could get fixed or repealed. The first is the comprehensive bill introduced by Mr. H’s first senatorial MySpace friend, Chris Dodd, Democrat from Connecticut.That bill, the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007, would repeal much of the MCA, restore habeas rights for the Gitmo detainees, and create a fully legitimate process for charging and trying the detainees—finally and fairly convicting the guilty and acquitting the innocent.It’s high time we separated out the Khaled El-Masris from the Khalid Sheik Mohammeds.Unfortunately, even with the current makeup of the Senate, it’s pretty certain that the RCA wouldn’t survive a cloture vote. That said, if enough people start looking for the big H.C., who knows what could happen? Incidentally, current Senate cosponsors of the Dodd bill are listed here, and in the House here.The other option is the fix sponsored by Republican Senator Arlen Specter and Democratic Representative (and chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee on Judiciary) Jerry Nadler from New York.That bill, the “Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007” basically gives Gitmo detainees the ability to file a habeas petition under statute. The Nadler House bill also permits detainees to use American violations of certain treaty obligations as grounds for certain claims.In the Senate, the Specter bill is cosponsored by most of the same folks as the Dodd bill, with some notable exceptions, including Senators Rockefeller from West Virginia, Salazar from Colorado, and Clinton from New York, who are on the Specter bill but not the Dodd bill.Again, thanks to all the sponsors and cosponsors of these bills. At least the word “habeas” is echoing in the Capitol rotunda, tickling the feet of that awfully statuesque giantess—the Statue of Freedom.Finally, the third option is to stick a new bill as a rider on defense authorization. That would, similar to the Iraq War resolutions, force the president to either veto or negotiate. We don’t really have any intelligence on the rider play, but keep an eye out for it on C-SPAN. That, and the unbelievably vibrant red dress Liddy Dole wears all the time. I mean, talk about showing the colors.

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