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Indefinite detention of so-called "enemy combatants"

The ACLU is inviting us to urge our Senators and Representatives to oppose violations of Constitutional and international law being perpetrated by the Bush Administration in our names.

Dear Senators Specter & Santorum, Representative Hoeffel,

As your constituent, I strongly urge you to oppose the practice of indefinite detention of so-called "enemy combatants" without charges, without a trial and without a right to a lawyer, and to oppose any legislation that would endorse this practice. By detaining individuals without charging them with a crime, the Bush Administration is violating international law and the U.S. Constitution.

I understand that indefinite confinement of a so-called "enemy combatant" without charge in a military brig violates the Constitution even in wartime. Our system of checks and balances was designed to ensure that individual liberty does not rest on the good faith of government officials. The rule of law assures us that proper checks and balances are placed on the exercise of government authority.

I have read that prisoners who are detained in a zone of combat operations, such as those captured in Iraq and Afghanistan, need not be criminally charged but can, consistent with the Geneva Conventions, be held as prisoners of war or as "civilian internees." While temporary military detention may be lawful for U.S. citizens who are captured fighting for the other side, they must promptly be taken out of the combat zone and given judicial review (as occurred, for example, with John Walker Lindh). The Bush Administration´┐Żs treatment of other prisoners, even those in the United States, as "enemy combatants" violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and must be ended.

I believe that access to a lawyer and a trial is critical to ensuring innocent people are not unfairly detained. If the government has evidence an individual is involved with terrorist activities, it can charge the person with a crime under existing law. By not giving innocent people the chance to prove their innocence, the government is committing a grave injustice.

Once again, I urge you to oppose the Bush Administration´┐Żs practice of indefinite detention and to oppose any legislation that would endorse or support this practice. I believe that individuals should never be held without access to a lawyer or the opportunity to prove their innocence at a trial.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.


Hugh D. Hyatt

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