"Everything we don't believe in"

Dennis Kucinich and 609 law professors explain what's wrong with the Bush administration's detainee legislation.

Published September 28, 2006 1:56PM (EDT)

As he prepared to vote against the Bush administration's detainee legislation Wednesday, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich put it about as well as anybody could. "This bill," he said, "is everything we don't believe in."

That's the short version.

In a letter sent to members of Congress this week, 609 law professors offer the long one:

"Taken together, the bills provisions rewrite American law to evade the fundamental principles of separation of powers, due process, habeas corpus, fair trials, and the rule of law, principles that, together, prohibit state-sanctioned violence. If there is any fixed point in the historical understandings of constitutional freedom that help to define us as a people, it is that no one may be picked up and locked up by the American state in secret or at an unknown location, or without opportunity to petition an independent court for inspection of the lawfulness of the lockup and of the treatment handed out by the state to the person locked up, under legal standards from time to time defined by Congress. This core principle should apply with full force to all detentions by the American state, regardless of the citizenship of detainees."

The professors cite three specific objections to the legislation: its denial of habeas corpus review for detainees who aren't U.S. citizens; its empowering of the president to "to decide which techniques violate the Geneva Conventions for purposes of criminal sanction under the War Crimes Act, so long as they do not fall within the category of 'grave breaches'"; and its abandonment of "our longstanding constitutional protections against punishing people on the basis of coerced testimony and against denying individuals the opportunity to defend themselves through access to exculpatory evidence known to the government."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Dennis Kucinich D-ohio George W. Bush Torture