Torture bill: Non-allegiance to president = terrorism

BoingBoing reader Eris Siva says,

Here's an article about bill HR 6166, the "Military Commissions Act of 2006" which recently passed in Congress. At first the bill seemed to only concrete the ability of Bush to define the Geneva Conventions and allow torture to be used on detainees. But further analysis digs up the fact that it also defines non-allegiance to Bush as an act of terrorism. It then goes on to include the following into the corral of terrorism: vandals, people who fight near "protected buildings", squatters, petty thieves, and anyone "who with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States" collects information (such a broad term) "clandestine" means.

What's more, it also prevents the courts from arguing with it, people from bringing the Geneva Conventions into a defense trial, and prevents people held under these terms from receiving any knowledge of the charges against them - preventing any sort of defense. There is so much more and the bill is over 80 pages long.

It's just outrageous to think that one day BoingBoing might even be considered as enemy activity under these new laws.

Link (Thanks, Waylon)

Ever at the ready with ironic, 100% cotton weapons of freedom, Tim Murtaugh says:

You guys posted about my "I Am Not A Terrorist" shirt a few weeks back. I just created another one that says "Enemy Combatant" (in English this time). Knowing our fear of terrorism (and doing quite a bit to encourage it, in fact), the leaders of the US expect us to ignore them as they change the way our government operates at the highest levels. They are doing a big thing badly, and this is my small effort to raise awareness.

Now, if they only came in bulletproof blends...

Reader comment: John Hosking says,

I clicked on the link to HR 6166 at this link, as included at the top of your BB post. My browser is set to ask me about cookies, so I was able to see what cookies the site wanted to feed me. The first cookie's name is ForeseeLoyalty_MID_MsF0ld0M1Z. I, uh, rejected the cookie.

Nameless guy says,

The US torture rules are far closer to those of the USSR than the UK. I thought you might be interested in a piece I've just written about the US Senate's recent legalisation of (it's not really) torture; while I knew that the controversial techniques were illegal in the UK -- and our armed forces have been forbidden to use them for over thirty years -- it came as quite a surprise to realise that the US Senate has, in effect, given its blessing to the standard interrogation techniques of Stalin's NKVD post 1939 (when they were told to stop beating people without authorisation). As far as I can make out, while the NKVD may have, in general, taken things a bit further than US interrogators would be allowed to, they were operating pretty similar rules to the ones just approved by the Senate.

Link to "I Can't Believe It's Not Torture."

Josh Larios says,

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.

JH says,

The comments by Eris Siva are highly misleading, and of very questionable interpretation of the bill in question. I wonder if Eris actually read the text of the bill? Don't get me wrong - I'm very much against the bill, but if we start fighting it with false and misrepresented claims about its provisions, we'll look stupid from the start, and our arguments will just be dismissed an non-applicable. I did buy a couple "Enemy Combatant" shirts.

Eris Siva replies,

In response to the criticisms received in this story - the wording is very tricky. Yes, I actually have delved into and read the bill. I am very familiar with such material, and that's why this particular piece is so frightening. I do admit that for some reason, I missed the reference to 948c and "alien" combatants, but that should not detract from the other frightening aspects of the bill.

I apologize for the mishap, but point out the fact that the vague wording about unlawful combatants and the recent history of arrests in relation to terrorism charges does not rule out US citizens. Not only that, but H.R.1076 even shows that:

"(8) The term `enemy combatant' has historically referred to all of the citizens of a state with which the Nation is at war, and who are members of the armed force of that enemy state. Enemy combatants in the present conflict, however, come from many nations, wear no uniforms, and use unconventional weapons. Enemy combatants in the war on terrorism are not defined by simple, readily apparent criteria, such as citizenship or military uniform. And the power to name a citizen as an `enemy combatant' is therefore extraordinarily broad."

Apparently I'm not the only one who sees the wording as flawed seeing as how multiple news sources (such as the Washington Post: link) also point out the vagueness in the definitions and the clear link between this bill and others of its kind.