Newsweek: Bush Insisted Only He Should Decide Who Should Stand Trial Before Military Court

Secret Legal Document Gave Bush Wartime Powers,

Including Holding Secret Tribunals

Nov 18, 2001, 00:00 ET from Newsweek

    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.
     (Photo: )
     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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SOURCE Newsweek