ensure we 'achieve
a lasting American
The American Spark
Can Congress 'Restore the Constitution'?
By Cliff Montgomery - Mar. 13th, 2007
On February 13th, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) introduced a bill on the Senate floor which, if passed,
promises to "achieve a lasting American victory without violating American values." We quote from Sen.
Dodd's introduction of the bill below:
"I rise today to introduce the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007--a bill to provide for the effective
prosecution of terrorists and guarantee due process rights. I am pleased to be joined by Senators Leahy,
Feingold, and Menendez as original cosponsors. This bill would make significant important changes to the
Military Commissions Act of 2006 which became law last October.
"I have served in this body for more than a quarter-century, but I remember few days darker than September 28,
2006, the day the Senate passed President Bush's Military Commissions Act.
"Let me be honest with you, I believe this body gave in to fear that day. I believe we looked for refuge in the rule of
men, when we should have trusted in the rule of law.
"[The Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007] makes major and important changes to [the Military Commissions
Act], in order to ensure we have the essential legal tools to achieve a lasting American victory without violating
"It restores the writ of habeas corpus for individuals held in U.S. custody.
"It narrows the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant" to individuals who directly participate in hostilities
against the United States in a zone of active combat, who are not lawful combatants.
"It requires that the United States live up to its Geneva Convention obligations by deleting a prohibition in the
law that bars detainees from invoking Geneva Conventions as a source of rights at trial.
"It permits the accused to retain qualified civilian attorneys to represent them at trial.
"It prevents the use of evidence in court gained through the unreliable and immoral practices of torture and
"It charges the military judge with the responsibility for ensuring that the jury is appropriately informed as to the
sources, methods and activities associated with developing out of court statements proposed to be introduced at
trial, or alternatively that the statement is not introduced.
"It empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable.
"It authorizes the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the military commissions.
"It limits the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and
makes that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight.
"It clarifies the definition of war crimes in statute to include certain violations of the Geneva Conventions.
"Finally, it provides for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to determine the
constitutionally of its provisions.
"Those who ask us to choose between national security and moral authority are offering us a false choice, and a
dangerous one. Our Nation has been defeating tyrants and would-be tyrants for more than two centuries. And in
all that struggle, we've never sold our principles--because if We did, we would be walking in the footsteps of
those we most despise.
"In times of peril, throwing away due process has been a constant temptation--but that is why we honor so highly
those who resisted it. At Nuremberg, America rejected the certainty of execution for the uncertainty of a trial, and
gave birth to a half-century of moral authority.
"Today I am asking my colleagues to reclaim that tradition, to put the principles of the Constitution above the
passion of the moment. That reclamation can begin today--if we remedy President Bush's repugnant law. We can
do it--and keep America Secure at the same time.
"The Military Commissions Act eliminated habeas corpus. Habeas corpus allows a person held by the
government to question the legality of his detention. In my view, to deny this right not only undermines the rule of
law, but damages the very fabric of America. It is not who we are, and it is not who we aspire to be.
"Freedom from torture. The right to counsel. Habeas corpus. To be honest, it still amazes me that we have to
come to the floor of the Senate to debate these protections at all. What would James Madison have said if you
told him that someday in the future, a Senator from Connecticut would be forced to publicly defend habeas
corpus, the defendant's right to a day in court, the foundation of Our legal system dating back to the 13 century?
What have we come to that such long-settled, long-honored rights have been called into question?
"But here we are. And now it is upon us to renew them."