Thursday, January 18, 2007

All the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people

Alberto Gonzalez testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. His opening remarks included a plea for Bush’s judicial appointees to be treated “at least as fairly” as Clinton’s. He also said that “At the Department of Justice, every day is September 12th.” Also, their VCRs keep blinking 12:00.

He said that the secret ruling held after a secret hearing, which allegedly gives him the power to continue wiretapping, will remain secret even from Congress. He said that it took him two years to come up with a program that could survive even this farcical approximation of judicial scrutiny because “It’s not something you just pull off the shelf.” Only my renowned sense of decorum prevents me suggesting from whence he did pull it.

[P.S. Glenn Greenwald actually (shudder) watched the hearings, and has much more.]

The military tribunals will allow hearsay evidence, under trial rules issued today, including in capital cases. The Pentagon says that this is fair because both sides can use hearsay evidence, which “levels the playing field,” except of course that the defense is unlikely to have access to hearsay evidence originating with American military personnel or people living in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

Statements obtained by “coercion” may also be used, although it doesn’t look like the defense is allowed to torture anyone. So much for a level playing field. Pentagon lawyer Dan Dell’Orto says this affords “alien unlawful enemy combatants” (my, what a long list of scare words that is!) “all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people.” I would be interested in hearing his definition of “civilized.”

To be fair, there are many improvements over the original proposed rules, which isn’t saying much. There will be no secret evidence not seen by the defense, but only the judge gets to decide if redacted classified material introduced at trial accurately represents the whole. Like hearsay, that’s a violation of the defendant’s constitutional right to confront the evidence against him (and presumably the defense doesn’t get to check other classified files for exculpatory evidence).

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