2006/09/22

Geneva Conventions - RIP?

The Specter bill seeks to excuse all of the President's crimes concerning warrantless NSA spying. "The President and Vice President negotiated the Specter bill personally and every sign has strongly reflected its great importance to them." It's been pointed out that the Specter bill would "expressly immunize Bush officials from any legal consequences arising out of their illegal eavesdropping -- giving them what Pincus called "blanket amnesty" -- by retroactively legalizing warrantless eavesdropping going back to 1978."

The Existentialist Cowboy (Who also makes a number of other good points) quotes from the Constitution: " 'No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed' —US Constitution, Article I". What this means is that Congress cannot pass a law that goes back into time and excuses behavior that was illegal at the time that the behavior was engaged in. If a US agent committed a war crime while the US was formally observing the Geneva Conventions, then he's guilty of a war crime. No bill passed in 2006 can absolve him of a crime committed in 2003. The Cowboy also quotes a section of Article IV which states: "all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land" which means that the Geneva Conventions, ratified in 1949, do not simply amount to a mere piece of paper that only foreigner care about, it's "the supreme law of the land."

At the moment, if the US decides that the Third Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War no longer applied, that would immediately affect approximately 14,000 prisoners being kept in a "global network of overseas prisons."

"Human-rights groups count dozens of deaths that have never been explained and for which no one has been punished." Murder is a crime which has no statute of limitations (That means that if you rob someone of property and the crime is not discovered until after a certain amount of time has passed, the statute of limitations will have expired and you can no longer be charged for it.) and no ex post facto law can excuse a murderer who killed while his or her actions were illegal. While it's perfectly legal to kill an enemy soldier under many specified conditions, it's been quite another story to kill a prisoner of war since 1949, when the Third Geneva Convention was ratified.

Many have wondered why the Democrats have not stepped up and argued against the Specter warrantless NSA spying bill or to keep the Geneva Conventions in force. According to a blogger who interviewed him, Senate Minority Leader "Sen. Reid stated flatly and unequivocally -- and I'm paraphrasing -- that the Specter bill was not going anywhere, that it would not be enacted."

There's been a real battle over the competing bills, with reports that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has "...referred the warrantless surveillance matter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for further review and would not bring it up for Senate consideration until next week." This would be marvelous news for those who support the Constitution as time in the legislative session is short and any delay weakens those who would toss it all away.

And the story on Maher Arar, the man born in Syria, but who became a Canadian citizen in 1987, who was abducted from the JFK airport in September 2002 and was returned a year ago, telling of being sent to Syria to be tortured? The US Government showsnoe desire to evenacknowledgee that he exists (Back in February, his case against the US was dismissed.), but on September 18 of this year, a Canadian court found that his abduction, imprisonment and torture were all completely unjustified and that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police should pay compensation. Intel can be wrong and officials can believe things that simply aren't true.

As of 6:00pm Sep 21, there's word that a deal has been reached between the Bush Administration and the small group of Republican Senators led by Senator John McCain.

As of 6:45pm it's clear that the "rebellious" Senators have completely capitulated and have given Busheverythingg he wants. Bush looks like a leader, McCain looks principled, Democrats look like losers and Geneva looks dead. "Here's the language. It's not subtle at all, and it only takes 30 seconds or so to see that the Senators havecapitulatedd entirely, that the U.S. will hereafter violate the Geneva Conventions by engaging in Cold Cell, Long Time Standing, etc., and that there will be very little pretense about it. In addition to the elimination of habeas rights in section 6, the bill would delegate to the President the authority to interpret 'the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions' 'for the United States,' except that the bill itself would define certain 'grave breaches' of Common Article 3 to be war crimes."

If this bill passes, we can say goodbye to the Geneva Conventions. The shell of them will still be around, but the core will have been completely gutted.

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