NEW YORK, Nov. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- After he signed an order allowing the use of military tribunals in terrorist cases, President George W. Bush insisted he alone should decide who goes before such a military court, his aides tell Newsweek. The tribunal document gives the government the power to try, sentence -- and even execute -- suspected foreign terrorists in secrecy, under special rules that would deny them constitutional rights and allow no chance to appeal.
Bush's powers to form a military court came from a secret legal memorandum, which the U.S. Justice Department began drafting in the days after Sept. 11, Newsweek has learned. The memo allows Bush to invoke his broad wartime powers, since the U.S., they concluded, was in a state of "armed conflict." Bush used the memo as the legal basis for his order to bomb Afghanistan. Weeks later, the lawyers concluded that Bush would use his expanded powers to form a military court for captured terrorists. Officials envision holding the trials on aircraft carriers or desert islands, report Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff and Contributing Editor Stuart Taylor Jr. in the November 26 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, November 19).
The idea for a secret military tribunal was first presented by William Barr, a Justice Department lawyer -- and later attorney general -- under the first President Bush, as a way to handle the terrorists responsible for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The idea didn't take back then. But Barr floated it to top White House officials in the days after Sept. 11 and this time he found allies, Newsweek reports. Barr's inspiration came when he walked by a plaque outside his office commemorating the trial of Nazi saboteurs captured during World War II. The men were tried and most were executed in secret by a special military tribunal.
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