Conyers challenges Bush on tribunals

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Conyers and other Members of Congress hold press conference to express concerns regarding the administration’s actions on Military Tribunals and Anti-terrorism. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee joined Congressmen Bob Barr (R-Ga.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Mel Watt (D-N.C.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) Nov. 16 to address the recent actions taken by the Bush administration regarding military tribunals and other anti-terrorism acts.

Conyers issued the following statement regarding these recent actions: “Today we stand on the verge of a civil liberties calamity in this country. The administration and the Attorney General have taken a series of constitutionally dubious actions that place the executive branch in the untenable role of legislator, prosecutor, judge, and jury.

“Certainly, we stand together as a nation in our collective outrage over the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. However, we do nothing to win the battle against terrorism by sacrificing our precious freedoms and liberties.

“We have been down this road of overreaction before. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. After World War I, our government wrongfully beat and deported thousands of immigrants. During World War II, we placed Japanese-Americans in internment camps.

“After the Oklahoma City bombing we gutted habeas corpus and decimated our immigration laws.

“When Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism bill last month, I was concerned that the Attorney General would unilaterally and unjustifiably seek to expand the government’s powers. But I never dreamed he would make me a prophet so quickly. Since then Mr. Aschroft has dealt one hammer blow after another to the very constitutional values he repeatedly promised to uphold at his confirmation hearings.

“First, the Attorney General totally ignored my letter of Oct. 31 asking for information concerning the 1,000 plus immigrants who have been detained for undisclosed reasons since the September attacks.

“On Oct. 31, the Attorney General issued regulations permitting the Department of Justice to unilaterally intercept attorney-client phone calls. On Nov. 9, the administration announced a policy of ethnic profiling by which it would discriminate in granting visas to men from middle eastern countries and target 5,000 Arab male visitors for intensive questioning. Surely in 21st Century America we can do better than saying than if you are Arab you are a suspect.

“Finally, on Nov. 13, the Administration announced the creation of secret military courts to try immigrants and other foreigners for terrorism offenses. Collectively, the Administration has swept away the independent judiciary, the right to a public trial, the right to an appeal, the right to counsel, due process, equal protection and habeas corpus. Not bad for two week’s work.

“We are here to remind our Attorney General that the Constitution applies just as forcefully after Sept. 11 as it did before Sept. 11. I urge the administration to not only reconsider these hasty actions, but to commit to consult and work with Congress before they issue any further edicts which erode our civil liberties and alienate our enemies.”