CRIME; MILITARY TRIAL
By Jon Christian Ryter
January 18, 2007
Incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy rammed The War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007 through the Senate in October, 2006 and, with it, helped the GOP enact The Effective Corruption Prosecution Act of 2007. Both pieces of legislation were designed, first, to show the voters that the GOP was serious about reining in lobbyists like Jack Abramoff and, second, that the Bush-43 Administration was serious about prosecuting defense contractors who overpriced the goods they sold the government in times of war—and to prosecute those accused of either earning excessive profits from the war, or those accused of bribing government officials for contracts. Quietly added to The War Profiteering Prevention Act was an amendment authored by Senator Lindsay Graham [R-SC] that was so controversial nobody wanted to talk about it. So they didn't.
The Bush Administration hired private contractors to perform jobs that were exclusively done—in war zones—by military personnel. Among the concessions negotiated by defense contractors like Haliburton was immunity from the military rules that govern the conduct of troops in theaters of war. The concessions granted civilians contractors immunity from prosecution by the military or by civil or criminal prosecution in Iraqi or Afghan courts. Civilians charged with civil or criminal offenses had to be tried by civilian courts in the United States. (From the Civil War to World War II, several civilians have been charged with crimes by the military and tried in military courts. In every case it has heard in the last 50 years the US Supreme Court has ruled that military tribunals have no jurisdiction over civilians.)
The argument advanced by the courts has been that when Congress enacted The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 it eliminated any jurisdiction the military had over civilians—even on military reservations or in war zones. Those opposed to military jurisdiction over civilians—even in war zones—argue that civilians can't be prosecuted in military courts because they don't receive grand jury hearings and they are not judged by " their peers," but by members of the military whose views are influenced by the Uniform Code of Military Justice rather than the civilian tenets of the rule of law. "The Supreme Court," said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, "has been quite hostile to trying civilians in a court-martial. On the other hand, the military justice system is more robust and has more protections in it than it did back in the 1950s." It also blatantly ignores the Bill of Rights which hamstrings prosecutors looking for quick convictions. (That, of course, is why globalist legislators on both sides of the aisle behind the utopian scheme to create world government need to vacate the Bill of Rights—legislatively or by reinterpretation by the judiciary.
And, that is also the reason that the Democratic majority is attempting to stifle free speech from conservative grass roots organizations by introducing the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007 [aka Commission to Strengthen Confidence in Congress Act of 2007] that is purported, by the liberals who promised the most transparent government since the Clintons, to be a piece of legislation that will bring lobbying firms who buy legislation out of the dark and into the light of day. Like most pieces of legislation offered by Congress over the last 100 years, this bill will do the exact opposite.)
Section 220 of Senate Bill S.1 (like Nancy Pelosi's 2006 House clone, H.R. 4682) was designed specifically to financially hamstring conservative 527s like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who were primarily responsible for John Kerry's losing the Election of 2004. However, it will also hamstring every major political action committee [PAC] political watchdog advocacy group—even those who do not get actively involved in the election process. Section 220 will obligate PAC groups to get Congress' permission before they could report to their constituents on the important issues Congress is dealing with that will impact their lives.
If S.1 had been law during the 2004 Election, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth could not have existed. If S.1 had been law during the Clinton years, Judicial Watch, Accuracy in Media, Media Research Center, the Eagle Forum, Freedom Alliance, the American Conservative Union, Gunowners of America, Citizens Against Government Waste, Club for Growth and a myriad of other political advocacy groups would have been forced to raise additional hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for the paperwork the new law would trigger—or be forced to close their doors or risk federal charges for violating the Legislative Transparency Act (which, of course, was designed to provide opaqueness to government, not transparency).
S.1, just like current House Speaker's H.R. 4682 which then-House Minority Leader Pelosi floated last year, would have conditioned the 1st Amendment on Congressional approval—and PAC groups would be forced to endure tons of paperwork and incur thousands of dollars of additional costs before they could warn the American people about covert shenanigans being engaged in by Congress.
The language in the Defense Spending Bill that will allow civilians to be tried in military courts—a bill that was also touted as an anti-lobbyist transparency law—was missed by almost every Congressman and Senator who was involved in framing the legislation since Sen. Lindsay Graham [R-SC]—to prove to the voters of South Carolina that he was prepared to get tough on defense contractors like DynCorp and Haliburton—changed exactly five words in the appropriations bill to take Bill of Rights protection away from civilian contractors. While the Constitution is mute on the subject of military tribunals and leaves that to the discretion of Congress, it is not mute on what inherent rights are possessed by American citizens—even those in the military. No where in the Constitution are there any provisions that give government the right to deny the Bill of Rights to members of the service.
Likewise, no where in the Constitution are there any provisions that require us to provide the protections of the Bill of Rights to enemy combatants caught on the battlefields of the world and confined in detention centers not located in the United States. Those who now control both Houses of Congress have it backwards—on purpose. They are as eager to apply the protections of the US Constitution on illegal aliens and enemy combatants who are killing our sons and daughters as they are to deny that protection to US citizens. According to Christopher Anders, Legislative Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] said that "...[s]oldiers subject themselves to a different system of criminal justice. That's a decision that's made by everyone who enlists." I find it hard to believe that those enlisting in any branch of the military are consciously aware that they are fettering away their constitutional rights when they sign the enlistment papers. I would venture a guess that if the military was obligated to preface their enlistment forms with a 12 pt. bold face warning that upon signing the enlistment form, volunteers for military service willingly to leave their Constitutional rights at the gate, there would be very few volunteers in the Volunteer Army.
Anders added that while there was logic to applying military standards to civilian military contractors, "...but it's a whole different thing when others are swept up. The legislation, Anders said, was drafted so vaguely that it could have negative consequences in how it was applied. Contractors understand those negative consequences, and have voiced strong opposition to the legislation saying that while they realize the need for accountability, the use of military law on contractors in the field creates a maze that muddles both liability l and what criminal wrongdoing. Before the defense bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush, civilians could be tried under the UCMJ only during a declared war. Since the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan do not involve "declared wars," civilians have been exempt. Had they not been, its like that civilian contractors working for the CIA and NSA who were at Abu Ghrab.
It has been argued in Washington that those civilians should have been charged under the Clinton-era Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 [MEJA] that was supposed to expand the authority of federal prosecutors to cover foreign battlefields. According to Peter Singer of the Brookings Institute, not one civilian contractor "...in the entire military industry in Iraq has been charged with any crime over the last three and a half years, let alone prosecuted or punished. Given the raw number of contractors—let alone the incidents we know about—it boggles the mind."
Legal experts agree that attempting to hold civilians to the same standards as US troops will raise constitutional challenges—and it could get real messy real fast. Because once this door opens, social activist judges on both sides of the issue will run through it. Sen. Lindsay Graham, who is rushing to meet the left on the floor of the US Senate, comes up for reelection in 2008. I hope the people in South Carolina remember his five word addition to the Defense Spending bill for what it was—an attempt to sacrifice the Bill of Rights to make himself look more honest.
needs to remember that, before we won the Revolutionary War, America's
Founding Fathers had all been branded as criminals by the "government"
they were attempting to overthrow. History doesn't remember any of the
names of the politically-correct members of the Constitutional Congress
who tried to straddle the fence.
© 2007 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights
[Read "Whatever Happened to America?"]
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website.
Legal experts agree that attempting to hold civilians to the same standards as US troops will raise constitutional challenges—and it could get real messy real fast.