Yale Law School students and professors will send Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a letter protesting President George W. Bush’s order allowing the use of military tribunals to try terrorism suspects.
The letter, which is slated to be sent to the Judiciary Committee chairman Wednesday, is intended to provide Leahy with support from the legal community when Attorney General John Ashcroft testifies at Thursday’s Senate hearings.
“It is meant to give Sen. Leahy confidence in pressing Congress to ask Ashcroft about the military commissions,” Yale law professor Paul Kahn said.
David Marcus LAW ’02 said the idea for the letter began when he voiced his concern over the military tribunals to professor Deena Hurwitz. Tania Galloni LAW ’02, Cecily Baskir LAW ’02, and Elizabeth Brundige LAW ’03 then joined Marcus and several professors in drafting the letter.
“Once the letter had been drafted, it was edited over the weekend by different law professors,” Kahn said.
The letter is now being sent to other law schools around the country for signatures.
“We sent the letter to several listservs that cater to law professors. In addition, we sent the letter to a number of other professors directly, probably to about 50 in all.” Marcus said. “Thus far we’ve received responses from about 20 different law schools at least.”
The letter outlines how the tribunals are legally deficient and possibly unconstitutional.
Since Bush gave his order, many Yale law professors have said the tribunals do not have set guidelines for defendants’ rights.
“The tribunals can try anyone who is not a citizen and whom the president thinks is a terrorist — a term which is not defined. This means he can pick up any non-citizen, try them in secret and sentence them to death,” professor Robert Gordon said.
Gordon said it is unclear whether the president has the constitutional power to issue such an order without the consent of Congress.
Professor Harold Koh said the tribunals may endanger the rights of U.S. citizens abroad.
“Such use by the United States would undermine our government’s ability to protest effectively when other countries do the same. Non-combatants would be at risk.” Koh said.
About 20 Yale Law School professors have signed the letter, Marcus said.
“I am astonished by the tribunals. I think they are alarming, to say the least, if not borderline crazy,” said professor Steven Duke, who signed the letter.