Philip Allen Lacovara, a former deputy solicitor general of the United States, former counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor, and a board member of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, has the following opinion piece in today's Washington Post:
Two years ago this week, President Bush authorized trials by military commission for people accused of membership in al Qaeda or attacks on the United States. Six men have been identified thus far to appear before these commissions.
Shortly before the president issued his executive order, and just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, I raised my voice in strong support of military commissions. As deputy solicitor general in the Nixon administration, I had been in charge of the government's criminal and internal security cases before the Supreme Court. I understood how the Bush administration could invoke the laws of war sanctioned by the Supreme Court to deal with international terrorists -- as distinct from "mere felons" (including mass murderers) and legitimate combatants entitled to protection under the 1949 Geneva Convention as prisoners of war. I urged the administration to do so.
When I proposed using military commissions to try terrorists, I conceived of trials with fair and reliable procedures designed to ascertain guilt -- or, equally important, innocence. I knew there would be critics of this approach but was confident that both legal and policy factors justified such trials.
Now, two years later, I reluctantly conclude that the administration's approach to military commissions confirms many of the critics' worst fears. . . .