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Congressman Lynn A. Westmoreland
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Contact: Brian Robinson 202-225-5901

Westmoreland backs terrorist tribunal bill

Washington, Sep 27 - U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland today voted for the Military Commissions Act, which creates a new judicial system to prosecute terrorists captured in the ongoing Global War on Terrorism, while also protecting American troops and intelligence agents fighting terrorists. The bill passed the House 253-168.

“This legislation provides the constitutional framework for bringing terrorists to justice,” Westmoreland said. “The Supreme Court ruled that the administration couldn’t try terrorist suspects until Congress created a legal system to deal with them. This is our answer to those guidelines from the court.

“No one got everything they wanted. Obviously, I wanted a system that would be as tough on the terror suspects as possible, and in the end I thought this deal is an acceptable compromise that answers my concerns.

“The Military Commissions Act establishes the procedures, rules and legal framework that are appropriate for the new battlefield created by the ongoing Global War on Terrorism. I hope this moves quickly through the Senate – as I think it will – so that we can get this into law and start trying terror suspects, including people involved in the planning of the Sept. 11 such as Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. I think Americans are more than ready to see these killers brought to justice.”

The Military Commissions Act includes the compromises worked out among the White House, Senate and House of Representatives last week.

The Military Commissions Act establishes a system of military tribunals to try alien enemy combatants who have engaged in or supported terrorist activities.  The act ensures that terrorists have basic legal rights, including the right to counsel, the right to obtain evidence and witnesses, and the right to appeal a guilty verdict.  Suspected terrorists have the right to be present at all legal proceedings, and no evidence may be presented to the jury unless it is also provided to the accused terrorist. 

The substantive findings of classified evidence will be admissible in an unclassified form, but the classified evidence itself is protected and is privileged from disclosure to accused terrorists — as well as the panel of jurists — if the disclosure of the information would be detrimental to national security. The act also protects our military and intelligence personnel by codifying violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. Currently, the article’s vague provisions are open to a variety of interpretations, potentially rendering American personnel liable to prosecution without just cause.  

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