Friday, June 30, 2006

The Supreme Court and Terrorist Combatants- Message by Bill Frist, M.D.

Yesterday, in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court ruled that, under current law, the terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay may not be tried by the military commissions currently set up by the Bush Administration. They did so by a vote of 5-3.

The Court did not contest the President's power to hold enemy combatants for the duration of the War on Terror and it did not challenge the Congress' authority to create new, constitutional military commissions to try these terrorists outside of our civilian court system. Indeed, Justice Breyer, in a concurring option, wrote "Nothing prevents the president from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary."

So, following the July 4th recess, I will introduce legislation, in consultation with the Administration and my colleagues, that authorizes military commissions that -- along with appropriate due process procedures -- will pass constitutional muster and enable the United States of America to try and convict known terrorists like Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the man who served as Osama bin Laden's driver in Afghanistan.

Foreign fighters captured on the battlefield have never been tried by our civilian courts -- if we are to keep America safe in the War on Terror, they shouldn't start now. In response to yesterday's Supreme Court decision, Congress should work with the President to update our laws on terrorist combatants to respond to the new threats of a post-9/11 world. And, since this issue so directly impacts our national security, I will pursue the earliest possible action in the United States Senate.

Bill Frist, M.D
June 30, 2006

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