The Instigator
iq_two
Pro (for)
Winning
18 Points
The Contender
PatrickHenry
Con (against)
Losing
9 Points

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 should be repealed.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/12/2007 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,250 times Debate No: 310
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (9)

 

iq_two

Pro

The Military Commissions Act (http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov...) is unconstitutional, unethical, and unnecessary. Under this act, the government can declare any alien, including someone who has lived in the United States for years, an "unlawful enemy combatant." Furthermore, this act prevents "alien unlawful combatants" from invoking the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights! Instead the act lists a lesser version of some of these conventions. For example, in the Military Commissions Act, while torture and cruel and inhuman treatment are considered "grave breaches" of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, degrading and humiliating treatment are not. And if the abuse was committed before the act was passed, it must be "prolonged" to be considered cruel and inhumane.
The rules for evidence to be used in trials are also unfair. Evidence cannot be excluded from trial because of a lack of warrant or other authorization. Hearsay evidence can be admissible. Statements made in which the degree of coercion is disputed are admissible if they have sufficient probative value. In other words, coerced statements are admissible if they can be used as proof.
Even worse is the evidence that is not admissible. Classified evidence can be deleted from documents and the defendant given "an adequate substitute" for classified information. Evidence in which "the sources, methods, or activities by which the United States acquired the evidence" is classified can be admitted into evidence, possibly with an unclassified summary of the sources, methods, or activities by which the evidence was acquired. If the sources, methods, or activities used to obtain the evidence are classified, how can it be known whether they are legal?
The Military Commissions Act also prevents detainees from challenging the legality of their detainment through habeas corpus. Although the act does have an appeals process, it is not habeas corpus. It also prevents aliens from challenging their detentions in court, even after they have been released. In other words, victims of torture or abuse can never sue for what happened to them.
It can be argued that terrorists do not deserve rights. Even if this is true, this act applies not just to terrorists but to alleged terrorists. Some of the prisoners held in Guantanamo have already been found not to be dangerous, and released. One justification of The Military Commissions Act is that it is necessary because the ordinary criminal justice system is not equipped to deal with terrorists. However, the Justice Department has a perfect record of convicting al Qaeda and affiliated terrorists. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is an unnecessary piece of legislation that takes away human rights for no purpose whatsoever, and it should be repealed.
PatrickHenry

Con

I disagree for a very simple reason. We should be able to protect ourselves from any and all peoples we feel are a threat to us. Now I would submit that this power must be used with discretion but, as it does violate the constitution (no rights are extended to foreigners in the constitution) I cannot find a problem from that aspect. Morally this would fall under the US defending itself so there we are allowed to morally take such measures as necessary to defend our selves. So once again I do think this power should be taken seriously however, I also think that unless serious abuse of this power can be shown the law should stay in effect.
Debate Round No. 1
iq_two

Pro

Your argument is that we should be able to protect ourselves by any means necessary. However, as I pointed out, the MCA is NOT necessary. Additionally, the exact wording is that anyone who "has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its cobelligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant," or anyone else who "has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant" is an "unlawful enemy combatant". This does not specify U.S. citizens, and actually can apply to U.S. citizens, such as for example, anti-war protesters or even lawyers for suspected terrorists. The part that does apply only to non-U.S. citizens is the suspension of habeas corpus. And the wording is so broad that the US government can detain any non-US citizen anywhere, and they don't have the chance to challenge their detention in court. A report by the Center for Constitutional Rights states that "Examples of people who could be detained indefinitely with no access to a court include: A foreign tourist wearing an anti-Bush t-shirt at the Statue of Liberty or a protester at an immigration rally who has lived in the U.S. since she was six months old and is a lawful, permanent resident."

You also said that you think its okay unless serious abuses of this power can be shown. Serious abuses of this power HAVE been shown! The Military Commissions Act is what allows the U.S. government to detain suspects indefinitely in Guantanamo Bay. And while you may consider this necessary to defend ourselves, keep in mind that some detainees in Guantanamo Bay have ALREADY been shown to be innocent, and even then not released.

Also, if we want to protect ourselves, we should give other countries a reason to follow international law and treat our soldiers humanely if they are captured. But if we say the Geneva Conventions don't apply to us, why should anyone else follow them?
PatrickHenry

Con

First I would like to point out how the leap to imprisoning lawyers for terrorist is not possible. The word "combatant" was for a reason, because it is defined under US law as "a foreigner who effects or attempts to affect great physical harm to the US, its citizens, or its interests" so just a lawyer who defends suspected terrorists is not in danger from this Act. By the way neither are US citizens since combatant status also requires you to be a foreigner.

Second in response to my statement about "abuse of power" you pointed out that the power has been misused in Guatamalo Bay. I was aware of this but you misunderstood what I meant so let me clarify. I said serious abuse of power as someone using this power for their own personal gain. I know that no matter what the law will be imperfect however we should try to fix the holes instead of tearing down the whole seawall.
Debate Round No. 2
iq_two

Pro

I agree with you that no law is perfect, and if this law really was necessary then maybe it would be better just to fix the wholes, but as I pointed out, not only are there many horrible problems with the Military Commissions Act but it also doesn't help anything. There is no practical reason to try people under military tribunal instead of in the civilian courts, which is in fact illegal anyway.
As for whether an enemy combatant can be a citizen, the actual wording of the act is:

‘‘In this chapter:
‘‘(1) UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT.—(A) The term ‘unlawful
enemy combatant' means—
‘‘(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who
has purposefully and materially supported hostilities
against the United States or its co-belligerents who is
not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who
is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces);
or
‘‘(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of
the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006,
has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant
by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent
tribunal established under the authority of the
President or the Secretary of Defense.

In other words, that anyone who has been part of or supported hostilities against the united states (with no specifics as to what hostilities are) OR anyone who the government says is an unlawful enemy combatant- and if you think the government would never accuse an innocent person, remember the McCarthy era- is an unlawful enemy combatant. NO reference to citizenship.

As to a serious abuse of power being shown, does it really matter whether someone is purposely abusing the law for their own gain or the law is just so bad that even when used correctly, it is abusive? Either way innocent people suffer.

And you didn't respond to my argument about why other countries should follow international law of we don't.
PatrickHenry

Con

First let me apologize for not addressing your argument about International Law. The Geneva Convention excludes from the rights granted to common soldiers. So this Law does not violate International Law but rather make that law US law as well!

Second I am sorry about not being clear when i cited the defintion of combatants it is the law that rules the military tribunals you spoke of. This is why this Law cannot be used against a US citizen.

Third in response to your citing of the Center for Constitutional Rights in round two. I would like to point that they used the dictionary definition instead of the legal one. And while this might not seem like such a big deal it really is so let me explain. While the legal definition defines "hostilities" as "effected or attempts to effect great physical harm to the US, its citizens, or its interests" and therefore makes wearing T-shirts and being a concerned Lawyer safe again since neither does "great physical harm".

finally my opponent continues to bring up "innocent people" and thier suffering so let me respond. But first please understand that am not trying to be cold towards their plight.
I do not like the fact that our legal system is flawed and that people are constantly being found innocent after spending years in prison. But I do not advocate tossing our entire Criminal Law System out the window. Instead I advocate making it constantly better. The same applies here, I don't want to through out a useful tool in stopping those who seem to think they are at war with us. I agree that it is a terrible thing that some people have been falsely accused. However I would rather fix this act, which has been a powerful tool against terrorist, rather than toss the whole thing out the window.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by writofmandamus 9 years ago
writofmandamus
Solarman1969

I am a conservative and I am against the MCA, the DTA, even the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. The true conservatives stick to the rule of law and the consitution.

They certainly dont deride those who try uphold it. Those, sir, would be NEO-conservatives- psychotics who believe that Big Government and War can actually solve problems. They seem to think Bush was a good idea too.
Posted by iq_two 9 years ago
iq_two
I wish there was another rond so I could reply to that. For one thing, the act has NOT been a powerful tool against terrorists, not a single person has actually been convicted under it. Another thing, you said that the military tribunal define combatants as not being citizens. That would be true, without this law, which actually changes the definition of "unlawful enemy combatants." And hostiliries have to cause "great physical harm", however,it is not only anyone who has engaged in hostilities, but also anyone who has supported them. This has already been used against people who have donated money to charities that they didn't know might have some tenuous connection to terrorism.
As for your point about innocent people in the legal system, you are right- about the ordinary legal system. In our legal system, you have the constitutonal right to challeneg your detention through habeas corpus. You have the right to appeals. You have the right to sue if you are tortured. In the mock-just system set up in by the Military Commissions Act, you have none of these rights.
Posted by Solarman1969 9 years ago
Solarman1969
Anything we can do to fight islamic terror

all the libs crying "civil liberties" are mostly fronts for Islamic terrorists, whether they know it or are just useful dupes (liberals)
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