TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

The Military Commissions Act of 2009Some of the Obama Administration’s desired changes to the Military CommissionsAct were codified into law in the Military Commissions Act of 2009,passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010.Among other changes from Bush-era commission rules, the new law establishedthat: 365• Statements obtained through torture or cruel, inhuman or degradingtreatment were to be excluded from evidence. Nonetheless, theSecretary of Defense is authorized to create rules permitting admissionsof both hearsay evidence and statements that are coerced (butfall short of torture).• Defendants have the right to attend their complete trials and examineall evidence presented against them. No longer may defendantsbe excluded from parts of proceedings because classified evidenceis being presented.• Military lawyers are required to disclose any exculpatory evidence tothe defense.Though they acknowledged that the amendments offered significant newprocedural protections for defendants, civil liberties groups were not entirelysatisfied with the changes. For example, the American Civil Liberties Unionbelieves that the military commissions system still represents a “second classsystem of justice,” and that the commissions are “not only illegal but unnecessary.”366The Future of Military CommissionsControversy over the use of military commissions continues. For instance,when Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arrested followingan attempt to detonate explosives on an airplane on Christmas Day 2009,there were many, including former Bush Administration officials, who arguedthat he should have been declared an enemy combatant and tried by132 Trials by Fire: Counterterrorism and the Law

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