The White House is seeking legislation that would allow people not
affiliated with terrorism to be prosecuted in military commissions --
with far fewer rights than afforded civilians.
WASHINGTON - A draft Bush administration plan for special military
courts seeks to expand the reach and authority of such ''commissions''
to include trials, for the first time, of people who are not al Qaeda
members or the Taliban and are not directly involved in acts of
international terrorism, according to officials familiar with the
The plan, which would replace a military trial system ruled illegal by
the Supreme Court in June, also allows the secretary of defense to add
crimes at will to those under the military court's jurisdiction. The
two provisions would be likely to put more individuals than previously
expected before military juries, officials and independent experts said.
The draft proposed legislation, set to be discussed at two Senate
hearings today, is controversial inside and outside the administration
because defendants would be denied many protections guaranteed by the
civilian and traditional military criminal justice systems.
Under the proposed procedures, defendants would lack rights to confront
accusers, exclude hearsay accusations, or bar evidence obtained through
rough or coercive interrogations. They would not be guaranteed a public
or speedy trial and would lack the right to choose their military
counsel, who in turn would not be guaranteed equal access to evidence
held by prosecutors.
Detainees also would not be guaranteed the right to be present at their
own trials, if their absence is deemed necessary to protect national
security or individuals.
An early draft of the new law prepared by civilian political appointees
and leaked to the media last week has been modified in response to
criticism from uniformed military lawyers. But the provisions allowing
a future expansion of the courts to cover new crimes and more prisoners
were retained, according to government officials who are familiar with
Bush seeks expanded military tribunal role