- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007


The Pentagon’s rules for upcoming detainee trials would allow terrorism suspects to be convicted and perhaps executed using hearsay evidence and some coerced testimony.

The rules are fair, said the Pentagon, which released them yesterday in a manual for the expected trials. However, they could spark a fresh confrontation between the Bush administration and the Democrat-led Congress over treatment of terrorism suspects.

According to the 238-page manual, a detainee’s attorney could not reveal classified evidence in the person’s defense until the government had a chance to review it. Suspects would be allowed to view summaries of classified evidence, not the material itself.

The new regulations are intended to track a law passed in the fall by Congress restoring President Bush’s plans to have special military commissions try prisoners in the war on terrorism. Those commissions had been struck down earlier in the year by the Supreme Court.

At a Pentagon briefing, Dan Dell’Orto, deputy to the Defense Department’s top counsel, said the rules will “afford all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people.”

Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he planned to scrutinize the manual to ensure that it does not “run afoul” of the Constitution.

“I have not yet seen evidence that the process by which these rules were built or their substance addresses all the questions left open by the legislation,” Mr. Skelton said.

Officials think that with the evidence they have now, they eventually could charge 60 to 80 detainees, said Brig. Gen. Thomas Hemingway, legal adviser to the Pentagon’s office on commissions.

The Defense Department is planning trials for at least 10 detainees.

There are almost 400 people suspected of ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban being held at the military’s prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. About 380 have been released since the facility was opened five years ago.

In outlining the maximum punishment, the manual includes the death penalty for people convicted of spying or taking part in a “conspiracy or joint enterprise” that kills someone. The maximum penalty for aiding the enemy — such as providing ammunition or money — is lifetime imprisonment.

As required by law, the manual prohibits the use of statements obtained through torture and “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” as prohibited by the Constitution. It allows some evidence obtained through coercive interrogation techniques if obtained before Dec. 30, 2005, and deemed reliable by a judge.

The Detainee Treatment Act, separate legislation championed in 2005 by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, prohibited the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of military and CIA prisoners.

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