The Military Commissions Act of 2006: A Short Primer

Part One (Part Two Follows)
October 9th, 2006

10 days ago, by a vote of 65 to 34, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). To facilitate the prosecution of detainees that the Bush Administration "disappeared" into secret CIA custody for several years, Congress created a system of justice that is far inferior to that of the federal courts and courts-martial. And not only did Congress give the Administration much of what sought in terms of substandard justice, it also allowed the Administration to pack the bill with a grab-bag of unnecessary and abusive measures.

With 10 separate sections, a few hundred provisions, and thirty-eight pages of fine print, the military commissions bill is complicated and, in a few areas, unclear. Its concrete impact will be assessed in what will no doubt be a long series of court cases that will end up in the Supreme Court.

What follows is a first stab at interpreting the scope and meaning of this exceedingly harmful bill.

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INTERNATIONAL SECOND THOUGHTS: Great Britain Moves to Pardon 300 Soldiers Executed During War

The British Government plans to seek Parliamentary approval of a pardon for more than 300 soldiers executed for military offenses during World War I.  The announcement came just after a pardon was revealed for Private Harry Farr, who was executed at age 25 for refusing to fight.

Defense Secretary Des Browne said:

"I believe a group pardon, approved by Parliament, is the best way to deal with this. After 90 years, the evidence just doesn't exist to assess all the cases individually.

"I do not want to second guess the decisions made by commanders in the field, who were doing their best to apply the rules and standards of the time.

"But the circumstances were terrible, and I believe it is better to acknowledge that injustices were clearly done in some cases, even if we cannot say which - and to acknowledge that all these men were victims of war."

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