Thank you America

Statement from Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA)

The United States has never been as unpopular in the world as it is now. We have flouted the very legal protections that we have sought to export to the rest of the world. We have undermined international human rights standards that we helped create, and which we have used to press other nations to protect the rights of their citizens.

I’ve been briefed on our surveillance, counter-terrorism, and interrogation programs. I’ve been to Guantanamo Bay three times. And I can tell you that a clear legal framework would empower – not limit – those who fight the War on Terror. We would ensure those who act on our behalf that they are doing so legally.

Congress had the opportunity to get this right last year, when we considered the Military Commissions Act. Some of our Members – Senators McCain and Graham among them – made valiant efforts to produce a bill that was consistent with our core values. But the White House prevailed, and the resulting legislation did little more than codify the rules already in place.

The two bills that Congressman Nadler and I introduced today would roll back certain provisions of the Military Commissions Act. The “Habeas Corpus Restoration Act” would reaffirm the right of habeas corpus, which allows all those detained by the government to challenge their detention before an independent court. The right – which dates back to the Magna Carta -is as central to the American conception of liberty as any other in the Constitution.

The “Restoring the Constitution Act” goes further, restoring a host of rights and procedural protections stripped away by the Military Commissions Act. The bill narrows the vague and potentially limitless applicability of the Military Commissions Act. It affirms the importance and applicability of the Geneva Conventions. It prohibits the use of coerced testimony, and gives the trial judge more discretion to ensure a fair trial.

We all want the United States to use all tools at its disposal to fight terrorism and protect our interests. But we must do so under the rule of law, and in a manner consistent with our values. These bills are an important course correction.

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