Hysterics over H.R. 6166 – Military Commissions Act of 2006

While catching up on much of my geek reading for the day, I stumbled on this boingboing article about the newly enacted bill H.R. 6166 – what many are calling the US torture law or something to that effect. In it, the person who sent boingboing the article tries to induce hysteria by claiming that because of the bill, non-allegiance to the President makes one a terrorist. Given my newfound interest in knowing the difference between reality and the state of existence each major US political party tries to present as reality, I figured this was something worth learning about. So I follow the link to bill H.R. 6166, print out the version as passed through the House (hint:it prints out soooo much nicer if you copy the entire text, paste is into Word, and print out that verion), and start reading.

I don’t find anywhere in the bill that people who don’t ally themselves with the President are defined as terrorist. I don’t ally myself with our current President, so this is a point that really matters to me. There is a Sec. 950v. Crimes triable by military commissions section where article (26) WRONGFULLY AIDING THE ENEMY *might* be something which one could consider as somehow tangential to seeming like what Eris Siva (the submitter of the article to boingboing) is saying, but not really. That article says any person subject to that chapter of the bill who knowingly and intentionally aids a US enemy in breach of allegiance or duty to the US is subject to the bill. But that ‘any person subject to’ the chapter qualifier matters. In a preceeding section, it is made clear that these articles only apply to “Any alien unlawful enemy combatant” throughout the bill.

So I go back to the boingboing article, hoping to find comments from other readers which would help me understand how I am being labelled a terrorist for not showing allegiance to the President, and I find that Josh Larios has seen and written about the same problems I saw:

HR 6166 is bad enough for what it actually _does_ say. There’s really no need to make up new things to be alarmed about. Specifically, the bill does _not_ define non-allegiance to Bush (or to the office of the President) as terrorism.

The text of the bill says: “Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States, or one of the co-belligerents of the enemy, shall be punished as a military commission under this chapter may direct.”

The important bit is “subject to this chapter”. Section 948c of the bill defines who is subject to this chapter as “[a]ny alien unlawful enemy combatant”. Previously, in section 948a, it defines “alien” as “a person who is not a citizen of the United States”. The authors of the article you’ve linked to have taken the “breach of allegiance” snippet as proof that the bill is aimed at US citizens, when the text of the bill clearly indicates otherwise.

Section 948d of the bill lays out the jurisdiction as follows: “A military commission under this chapter shall have jurisdiction to try any offense made punishable by this chapter or the law of war when committed by an alien unlawful enemy combatant before, on, or after September 11, 2001.”

The “breach of allegiance” excerpt is as meaningful as “before, on, or after September 11, 2001”. That is to say, not at all. I cannot see any reasonable interpretation of the text of the bill that includes non-allegiance to the president (by a US citizen — who else would have any allegiance to the president?) equating to terrorism.

Folks, there are problems with this bill. There are things I don’t like in it. I believe this bill will be found unconstitutional due to it’s explicit denial of the judicial branch’s rights to speak on matters of law. I don’t like that through this law, anyone accused of anything covered by the bill can be held without information necessary to form a defense. I think the bill as passed explicitly defines as an unlawful enemy comtatant (and therefore subject to the rules in the bill) everyone which the White House has labelled an unlawful enemy combatant prior to passage of the bill.

But let’s focus on what is actually wrong with the bill, and not make up crap in an attempt to induce hysteria. As with every other far-reaching law ever passed by Congress, this will be used in ways it shouldn’t be. And there will be abuses of the law due to lack of clarity on some points. But nowhere in the bill does it state anything that would allow one to be labelled a terrorist for non-allegiance to the President. So let’s just deal with what is wrong with the bill, try to keep the things in the bill that are good, and stop with the spreading of falsehoods, OK?

[tags]Military Commissions Act of 2006, Bill H.R. 6166, Author claims US torture bill makes non-allegiance to President a terrorist act[/tags]