Barack Obama: so essentially the weaker the government's case is against you, the fewer rights you have
Barack Obama went on the floor and gave us a very good speech on civil liberties and security...
(very rough transcript)
Obama.. that's a quote. we all know about the recent case of the Canadian man who was suspected of terrorist connections, detaineeed in New York, sent to Syria a rendition agreement, tortured, only to find out later that it was all a case of mistaken identity and poor information. In this war where terrorists can plot undetected from within our borders, it is absolutely vital that our law enforcement agencies are able to detain and interrogate whoever they believe to be a suspect and so it is understandable that mistakes will be made, and identities will be confused.
I don't blame the government for that. this is an extraordinarily difficult war that we're prosecuting against terrorists. and there are going to be situations in which we cast too wide a net and capture the wrong person, but what is avoidable is refusing to ever allow our legal system to correct these mistakes mistakes. by giving suspects a chance, even one chance ngs , to challenge the terms of their denengs in court, to -- detention in court, to have a judge confirm that the government has detained the right person, we could solve this problem without harming our efforts in the war on terror one bit. now, let me just respond to a couple of points that have been made on the other side. you'll hear opponents of this amendment say that it will give all kinds of rights to terrorist masterminds like kalid sheikh mohammed. that is not true.
the under irony of the underlying bill is that someone like khalid sheikh mohammed is going to get a full military trial with all the bells and whistle. he is going to have counsel, be able to present evidence, beable able to rebut the government's case because the feel something that he is guilty of a war trim crime and to do otherwise might violate some of our agreements un under the geneva convention. i think that's good that we're going to provide him with some procedure and process. i think we will convict him and i think he will be brought to justice. i think -- justice will be carried out. in his case.Ã± but that won't be true for the detainees who are never charged with a terrorist crime, who have not committed a war crime. under this bill, people who may have been simply in the wrong place at the wrong time -- and there may be just a few of them -- will never get a chance to appeal their detention.
and so essentially the weaker the government's case is against you, the fewer rights you have. senator specter's amendment would fix that while still ensuring that terrorists like mohammed are swiftly brought to justice. you're also going to hear a lot about how lawyers are going to be filing all kinds of frivolous lawsuits on behalf of detainees if habeus corpus is in place.
this is a cynical argument because i think we could get unanimous support in this chamber right now for a measure that would simply restrict habeas to a one-shot appeal that would be limited solely to if someone was detained or not. i'm not interested in hr eting someone in guantanamo complain about whether their cell is too small or whether the food they get is sufficiently edible or too their tastes. that is not what this is about. we can craft a habeas bill that says the only question before the court is whether there's sufficient evidence to find that this person is truly an unlawful enemy combatant and pwhropbgs in this detention -- and belongs in this detention center. we could restrict it to that.
although i have seen some of those amendments floating around, those were not amendments that were admitted during this debate. it's a problem that's easily addressed. it is not a reason for us to wholesale eliminate habeus corpus. finally, you'll hear some senators argue that if habeas is allowed, it renders the csrt process irrelevant because the courts will embark on to noble review, meaning they will completely retry the case, take new evidence. and so whatever find wr-gz made in the cs -- findings were made in the csrt were not really relevant because the courts essentially are going to start all over again.
i actually think that some of these senators are right on this point, and i believe that we could actually set up a system in which a military tribunal is sufficient to make a determination as to whether someone is enemy combatant or not and would not require the sort of traditional habeus corpus that is called for as a consequence of this amendment. where the court's role is simply to oversee whether proper procedures were met. the problem is that the way the csrt is currently designed is so insufficient that we can anticipate the supreme court overturning this underlying bill once again in the absence of habeus corpus review. i've had conversations with some of the sponsors of the underlying bill who say they agree that we've got to beef up the csrt procedures. well, if we're going to revisit the csrt procedures to make them stronger and to make sure that they comport with basic due process, why not leave habeus corpus in place until we've actually fixed it up to our satisfaction. why rush through it three days before we're supposed to adjourn because we're all going to go campaign on the issue of who's tougher on terrorism and national security.
you know, since 9/11 americans have been asked to give up certain conveniences and civil liberties. long waits in airport security lines, random questioning because of a foreign-sounding last name, so that the government can defeat terrorism wherever it may exist. it is a tough balance to strike, and i think that we have to acknowledge that whoever was in power right now, whoever was in the white house, whichever party was in control, that we would have to do some balancing between civil liberties and our need for security and to get tough on those who would do us harm. and most of us have been willing to make some sacrifices because we know in the end it helps to make us safer. but restricting somebody's right to challenge their imprisonment indefinitely is not going to make us safer. in fact, recent evidence shows that it's probably making us less safe. the sunday's ""new york times"" it was reported that previous drafts of the recently released national intelligence estimate, a report of 16 different government intelligence agencies described -- and i quote -- ""actions by the united states government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement like the indefinite detention of prisoners at guantanamo bay. this isn't just unhelpful in our fight against terror; it's unnecessary.
we don't need to imprison innocent people to win this war. people who are guilty, we have the procedures in place to lock them up. that's who we are as a people. we do things right and we do things fair. two days ago every member of this body received a letter signed by 35 u.s. diplomats, many of whom had served under republican presidents. they urged us to reconsider eliminating the rights of habeus corpus from this bill, saying -- and i quote -- ""to deny habeus corpus to our detainees can be seen as a prescription for how the captured members of our own military, diplomatic and n.g.o. personnel stationed abroad may be treated. but congress has every duty to ensure their protection and to avoid anything which will be taken as justification even by the most disturbed minds that arbitrary arrest is the acceptable norm of the day in the relations between nations and the judicial inquiry is an antique, trivial and dispensable luxury. unquote. the world is watching what we do here today in america.
they will know what we do here today, and they'll treat all of us accordingly in the future. our soldiers, our tkeuplts, our journal -- our diplomats, our journalists, anyone who travels beyond these borders. i hope we remember this as we go forward. i sincerely hope that we can protect what's been called the great writ, a writ that's been in place in the anglo- american legal system for over 700 years. mr. president, this is not a tough amendment. this shouldn't be a difficult vote. i hope we pass this amendment because i think that it is the only way to make sure that this underlying bill preserve all the great traditions of our legal system and our way of life. i thank you very much, mr. president. i yield the floor and ask for a ...