Constitution Project Warns Against Revival of Failed Military Commissions

Applauds Congress for holding hearings to scrutinize legal shortcomings

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

WASHINGTON – The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing this morning to examine the legal issues surrounding military commissions and trials of suspected terrorists already in United States custody. In May, President Obama announced his intention to revive the military commissions for a select group of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. Although the Constitution Project welcomes Congress’ efforts to evaluate this crucial policy matter carefully, the Project urges members of Congress to ultimately reject this fundamentally flawed proposal.

In June, the Constitution Project joined a coalition letter requesting full public hearings before any voting on legislation to revise the Military Commissions Act. The Armed Services Committee has recognized the importance of open hearings on this matter, and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties is scheduled to examine the issue tomorrow.

The following can be attributed to Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project: “Both before and after 9/11, our federal courts have proven their ability to handle the most difficult terrorism prosecutions without sacrificing either the nation’s safety or the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Restarting the failed military commission system would wrongfully ignore our established institutions of justice in favor of a second class, tainted system. Both as a matter of law and policy, relying on a lesser level of justice is misguided. The proposed changes to improve evidentiary standards and due process protections are too little too late, and cannot transform the commissions into a legitimate forum for prosecuting detainees.

“It is troubling that President Obama, who voted against the Military Commissions Act when he was in the Senate, has called for the system’s reinstatement. Congress now has the responsibility to reject any proposals to do so and ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the recent past. This week’s hearings are important first steps in reexamining the dire consequences of reviving the military commission system and demonstrating how reliance upon our traditional federal courts can both protect our national security and uphold American values.”

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

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