Gravity's Rainbow

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Rick Renzi and the Military Commissions Act


The Military Commissions Act of 2006 restricts the right of habeas corpus (among other things). This is what it says:

No person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas corpus or other civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States is a party as a source of rights in any court of the United States or its States or territories.

I wrote to my representative, Rick Renzi, asking him to restore the right of habeas corpus. I’ve copied some of his response below.

As you may be aware, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was signed into law on October 10, 2006 (P.L. 109-366). Based on the Uniform Code of Military Justice, this law establishes the procedures, rules, and legal framework for trying accused terrorists captured either here in the United States or abroad.

Those eligible for trial under this law are those people found violating the laws of war, committing a hostile act against the United States, or purposefully and materially supporting terrorists engaged in a hostile act against the United States. No American citizen may be tried under the Military Commissions Act.

First of all, why should people who aren’t American citizens be denied the right of habeas corpus? Habeas corpus allows detainees to seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. Citizens of other countries are as entitled to this right as American citizens.

Secondly, Renzi says that no American citizen may be tried under the Military Commissions Act. This isn’t quite true. As David Wu pointed out in a House debate

by so restricting habeas corpus, this bill does not just apply to enemy aliens. It applies to all Americans because, while the provision on page 93 has the word “alien” in it, the provision on page 61 does not have the word “alien” in it.

Let us say that my wife, who is here in the gallery with us tonight, a sixth generation Oregonian, is walking by the friendly, local military base and is picked up as an unlawful enemy combatant. What is her recourse? She says, I am a U.S. citizen. That is a jurisdictional fact under this statute, and she will not have recourse to the courts? She can take it to Donald Rumsfeld, but she cannot take it across the street to an article 3 court.

This bill applies to every American, regardless of citizenship status.

Write a letter to your representative about this.


Not that I should have expected better of him based on his voting record. Most recently,

  • He voted against Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendation Act, which establishes a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and requires “reports on the implementation of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations in regard to the detention and treatment of captured terrorists.”
  • He voted for the Intelligence and Law Enforcement Resolution, which allows for government surveillance without a court order, “allows the Attorney General to direct a person to secretly provide the Government with all information and facilities needed to acquire foreign intelligence information,” “prohibits a court from imposing a penalty on any person for an activity relating to an element of the intelligence community between the period of September 11th, 2001 and 60 days after the enactment of this act,” and “prohibits officials from using information gathered with election surveillance for a criminal proceeding unless Attorney General authorizes it in advance.” So, it gives immunity to people in the government who do bad things and allows those bad people in the government to spy on ordinary people.
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