As John notes below, the key portion of President Bush’s address today on terrorist interrogation and detention was his announcment that the administration is asking Congress to pass comprehensive legislation authorizing military tribunals and protecting American servicemen and CIA employees from prosecution or lawsuits arising out of their interrogation of captured terrorists. The president said:
So today, I’m asking Congress to pass legislation that will clarify the rules for our personnel fighting the war on terror. First, I’m asking Congress to list the specific, recognizable offenses that would be considered crimes under the War Crimes Act — so our personnel can know clearly what is prohibited in the handling of terrorist enemies. Second, I’m asking that Congress make explicit that by following the standards of the Detainee Treatment Act our personnel are fulfilling America’s obligations under Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions. Third, I’m asking that Congress make it clear that captured terrorists cannot use the Geneva Conventions as a basis to sue our personnel in courts — in U.S. courts. The men and women who protect us should not have to fear lawsuits filed by terrorists because they’re doing their jobs. . .
As we work with Congress to pass a good bill, we will also consult with congressional leaders on how to ensure that the CIA [interrogation] program goes forward in a way that follows the law, that meets the national security needs of our country, and protects the brave men and women we ask to obtain information that will save innocent lives. For the sake of our security, Congress needs to act, and update our laws to meet the threats of this new era. And I know [it] will.
Hugh Hewitt’s take is that “Only the Lamont wing of the Democratic Party will oppose such legislation. In the next ten days or so we will see just how large that wing is.” However, the Republican party has a terrorist rights wing too — the McCain, Graham, Warner faction. To be sure, it’s much smaller than its Democratic counterpart. But considering McCain’s stature, the reverential treatment he and his cohorts receive from the MSM, and the slim nature of the Republican Senate majority, this group is the more important of the two.
The back-end of this report by Fox News suggests that dealing with the McCain, Graham, Warner faction may be a difficult proposition for the administration. McCain appears to believe that foreign terrorists should have the benefit of “200 years of legal precedents” pertaining to the rights of the accused under the American legal system. Graham, the mouth-piece for the liberal wing of JAG establishment, thinks that foreigners belonging to no national military organization who plan and commit violence intended to bring America to its knees are entitled to largely the same court martial procedures we grant to those who volunteer to serve to defend our country, but violate military law in the course of their service.
“Due process” is sometimes defined tautologically as the process that is due. Under what theory is a foreigner who worked closely with Osama bin Laden “due” the same or similar process as someone who volunteered to defend our country but went AWOL or overreacted in combat? Unless they believe that terrorists are roughly equivalent to wayward members of our forces, Graham and the members of his faction have no coherent answer. But that may not prevent them from providing cover political cover for the Lamont wing of the Democratic party.