Military Commissions

Senate should oppose D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Caitlin Halligan


In 2009, current D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Caitlin Halligan donated her legal services pro bono and co-authored amicus brief which argued that the 2001 AUMF did not authorize indefinite military detention of captured unlawful enemy combatants.

The Honorable Senator Mitch McConnell
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.
March 4, 2013

Dear Senator McConnell,

We are writing today to express our strong opposition to the appointment of Caitlin J. Halligan to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. We do so because we have seen, first hand, how judicial activism can thwart efforts by the executive and legislative branches of government to protect this nation in matters of national security. We have observed judges on the D.C. Circuit inexplicably dismiss compelling evidence in Guantanamo detainee habeas cases and order the detainees released, only to have those same cases overruled at the appellate level. As the threat of terrorism by groups and individuals inside the U.S. homeland continues to rise, it is essential that the American people continue to be protected through laws crafted and enacted by their sworn representatives, not by unelected judges who serve lifetime terms, accountable to no one.

The D.C. Circuit Appellate bench has jurisdiction over military commission appeals. Ms. Halligan has a public record dismissing military commission as inferior courts. Indeed, the New York City Bar Association Committee on Federal Courts, on which she served, published a report which she signed, describing military commissions as outside the “rule of law.” As you well know, the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act were nothing less than the result of a vigorous, hard-won bi-partisan effort to create a fair, reasonable, and effective legal framework within the confines of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that dealt with an unconventional, asymmetrical existential threat to this nation. Despite the fact that the MCA and indefinite detention was upheld by the United States Supreme Court, Ms. Halligan, working pro bono, submitted an amicus curiae brief in the 2009 case of Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri v. Spagone, arguing that the AUMF did not authorize the seizure and indefinite military detention, without criminal trial, of a resident alien who allegedly conspired with Al-Qaeda to execute terror attacks on the United States.

We regret that the Constitutionally-required process of Advice and Consent has become politicized, and that activist nominees to the bench try to thwart exposure of their legal philosophy through ambiguous or incomplete testimony. But Ms. Halligan has taken this to a whole new level. She has attempted to remake herself entirely. We believe that she has affirmatively misrepresented herself to the Judiciary Committee, thus lowering the bar on candor and honesty even further. If the Senate votes to affirm her nomination, in our view, it will be complicit in this deception. Worse, the American people, who count on our representatives to act on our behalf, will be even more discouraged. We are tired of political expediency in matters that affect our lives, and the lives of our children and grandchildren. When judges take these matters away from the people, where do we then go?

We urge you and your fellow senators not to allow President Obama to wear you down. As you have before, we urge you to vote “no” against cloture in the nomination of Caitlin Halligan.

Respectfully submitted,

Debra Burlingame
Tim Sumner
Co-founders, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America

http://actionyes.org/?p=order-cheap-generic-cialis Related reading:

File – Caitlin Joan Halligan, Nominee, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, January 19, 2011 (document file)

THE INDEFINITE DETENTION OF “ENEMY COMBATANTS”: BALANCING DUE PROCESS AND NATIONAL SECURITY IN THE CONTEXT OF THE WAR ON TERROR The Association of the Bar of the City of New York Committee on Federal Courts February 6, 2004 (pdf)

Try KSM and al Nashiri at Gitmo now for their war crimes

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder believe the enemy has Constitutional rights. So far, the Supreme Court has not agreed with that assertion. We should put the theories to the test by trying al Nashiri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at Gitmo now.

When Holder brought Ghailani to federal court for trial, he did so knowing a federal judge might not allow the seller of the TNT to testify as he was first identified during Ghailani’s detainee interrogations. Instead of railing against bestowing Constitutional rights upon non-U.S. persons who wage illegal war, Benjamin Wittes and Jack Goldsmith seem to argue we should just wait the enemy out in their op-ed today in the Washington Post:

The government had a difficult time convicting Ghailani in large part because presiding Judge Lewis Kaplan excluded a key witness that the government had acknowledged it knew about through coercive interrogations. Many critics of civilian trials claim that this problem would not have occurred in a military commission, but that is very probably wrong. The legal standard for excluding such evidence in military commissions would depend on the military judge’s sense of the “interests of justice.” The government would be foolish to rely on military judges’ willingness to admit evidence obtained – even in a derivative fashion – as a result of coercion. There is not much reason to think that the government would have had an easier time against Ghailani on this score if it had proceeded in a commission.
safe canadian pharmacy
Imagine that Ghailani had been acquitted on all counts. The administration would then have faced a terrible choice between releasing him or — as the attorney general and Judge Kaplan have said is possible — continuing to hold him in military detention indefinitely despite his acquittal. The first option would be unsafe for the nation and suicidal politically. The second option would look terrible in light of an acquittal and would harm the legitimacy of every subsequent terrorist trial.

This terrible choice — which came close to becoming a reality — reveals why military detention is fundamental and appropriate here. The reason the first option is unsafe and the second option is available is that Ghailani helped conduct a major terrorist operation read more on behalf of a group with which the country is at war. Military detention was designed precisely to prevent such fighters from returning to the battlefield. It is a tradition-sanctioned, congressionally authorized, court-blessed, resource-saving, security-preserving, easier-than-trial option for long-term terrorist incapacitation.

As civilians, Ghailani, al Nashiri, and KSM all waged illegal war against the United States by attacking our embassies, the USS Cole, and both civilians and military personnel on 9/11. If no evidence exists to support those assertions, then both President Bush and President Obama had no inherent or Congressional authority to continue to hold them as detainees. Yet abundant evidence exists that all three committed war crimes resulting in the deaths of U.S. persons.

The Supreme Court reaffirmed the President’s authority to indefinitely detain the enemy back in 2004 so their detention is not at issue. That war crimes were committed, they require an accounting, and America’s enemies should not be afforded Constitutional rights are the issues.

Attorney General Holder declined to prosecute Ahmed Ghailani for his post-9/11 activities as a member of al Qaeda. It is telling that Holder announced last year that U.S.S. Cole bomber al Nashiri would be brought to a military commission in the United States only to let the DOJ withdraw those charges in August 2010, as the Washington Post reported:

[C]ritics of military commissions say the Nashiri case exemplifies the system’s flaws, particularly the ability to introduce certain evidence such as hearsay statements that probably would not be admitted in federal court. The prosecution is expected to rely heavily on statements made to the FBI by two Yemenis who allegedly implicated Nashiri. Neither witness is expected at trial, but the FBI agents who interviewed them will testify, said Nashiri’s military attorney, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen C. Reyes. “ order tadalafil Unlike in federal court, you don’t have the right to confront the witnesses against you,” he said.

Three of the prosecution’s witnesses against Ahmed Ghailani were not available because they died since testifying in the 2001 trial against the four previously arrested for the 1998 attacks upon our embassies. If our national policy becomes delaying war crime prosecutions until the end of hostilities, it imbues war criminals with a temporary immunity and risks their outliving the means to bring them to justice.

Judge Kaplan’s ruling that the testimony by the seller of the TNT to Ghailani was “fruit of a poisoned tree” is exactly why President Obama and Attorney General Holder hold out hope to someday bring more Gitmo detainees onto U.S. soil and to trial, regardless of the venue. Yet after the Ghailani verdicts, this and future Congresses are unlikely to ever fund bringing them here for that purpose.

This war will not end in our lifetimes or theirs and no President will release al Nashiri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed alive to again wage illegal war upon the United States. Should they be acquitted due to Constitutional protections, America will finally see the wisdom of our Founding Fathers who gave no authority to the Judiciary branch in war. If they are convicted and pay the full measure for their war crimes, justice will at last be served.