July 21, 2008

Attorney General Wants New Declaration of War Allowing Indefinite Detention and Concealment of Torture

Contact: (202) 675-2312, media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON, DC - In an enormous executive branch power grab, Attorney General Michael Mukasey called on Congress today to authorize indefinite detention through a new declaration of armed conflict. Mukasey also proposed that Congress subvert the right of habeas corpus with a new scheme of procedures that will hide the Bush administration's past wrongdoing - an action that would undermine the constitutional guarantee of due process and conceal systematic torture and abuse of detainees.

"Mukasey is asking Congress to expand and extend the war on terror forever. Anyone that this president or the next one declares to be a terrorist could then be held indefinitely without a trial," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "This is clearly the last gasp of an administration desperate to rationalize what is a failed legal scheme that was correctly rejected four times by the Supreme Court. With as little as five work weeks left in this Congress, there are more important issues than helping the lame-duck president cook up an indefensible plan to lock people up forever and throw away the key with no due process rights and limited judicial review."

"The attorney general's proposal would hide the torture and abuse conducted since 9/11," Fredrickson said. "This is one more effort to cover up the illegal activities authorized by the president and his administration. Attorney General Mukasey might be ok with helping in a cover-up, but there is no reason to think that Congress will assist him."

"Congress won't fall for this latest Bush administration plan to cover up its wrongdoing. At the same time that the House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether high-level Bush White House officials may have committed crimes of torture and abuse, Mukasey has the arrogance to ask Congress to give him the power to detain people without trial and hide torture and abuse from the courts," said ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Christopher Anders. He added, "He wants a new declaration of a worldwide armed conflict in order to hold people without trial, and then under the guise of protecting ‘sources and methods' from judges who have decades of experience trying dangerous international terrorists, Mukasey asks Congress essentially to bury the evidence."

"There is simply no need to invent yet another set of legal rules to govern the detention and trial of prisoners held on national security grounds, and the rules that the attorney general is proposing are fundamentally inconsistent with the Constitution. The prisoners at Guantanamo, some of whom have been held without charges for more than six years, should be allowed a meaningful opportunity to challenge their detention in court. The handful of prisoners that have actually been charged with crimes should be tried under rules that conform to the Constitution and that the rest of the world will recognize as fair," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project.

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