Congress Continues to Debate Military Commissions

Worthy of debate but not of reinstating, says Constitution Project

CONTACT: Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security has scheduled a hearing for this afternoon to examine the options available to prosecute suspected terrorists – those currently held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and elsewhere, as well as for future detainees. The Constitution Project welcomes further hearings to discuss the merits of various avenues to try detainees, but warns against seeking to reform the flawed and tainted military commissions adopted under the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

The following can be attributed to Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project:

“Congress has recognized the need to hold full and open debates on reinstating the military commissions, but any attempt at reform will be too little and too late. The proceedings established under the Military Commissions Act constituted a lesser and unjust system of justice that failed to live up to the legal traditions of our nation. Changes proposed by President Obama and some in Congress to improve evidentiary standards and due process protections cannot transform the tainted commissions into a legitimate forum for prosecuting detainees.

“Congress should instead be devoting its time and energy towards working with the Obama administration to prosecute suspected terrorists in our federal courts. Our traditional court system has a proven track record in successfully bringing suspected terrorists to justice – both foreign and domestic – without sacrificing the nation’s safety or the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Some in Congress have proposed further prohibitions on the transfer of detainees into the United States, even for their prosecution in our traditional court system. This continues to move the goal line of closing Guantanamo further and further away.”

The following is an excerpt from a statement opposing military commissions issued by Stephen Abraham, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and member of the Constitution Project’s Liberty and Security Committee. Speaking as an individual, Lieutenant Colonel Abraham says:

“I have witnessed firsthand military proceedings purporting to satisfy fundamental rights embodied in our Constitution…Military commissions are an unacceptable substitute for our federal courts that have demonstrated time and again that they can handle such cases as these without diminishing our national security or shared values. Are we so weary – or fearful – of the institutions upon which our nation’s heritage has been established that we would so easily discard them?”

Click here to see the full text of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Abraham’s statement opposing the revival of military commissions.

Click here t o see the letter urging Congress to hold full and open hearings signed by 23 advocacy organizations, including the Constitution Project.

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