WASHINGTON, DC – Representative Ike Skelton, Ranking Member on the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement following the committee’s mark-up of Chairman Hunter’s proposal on military commissions:
“All Americans and all members of the Armed Services Committee want a tough system of military commissions that will swiftly convict alleged terrorists. While the bill passed today will move the process toward a conference with the Senate, I think it is very unclear whether its approach will withstand scrutiny in the courts. We have to ensure this system works or we will go another five years without a single terrorist conviction.
“The substitute I offered, which was defeated 26-32-1, was the better approach for several reasons. First, it would have ensured that no terrorist is given a “get out of jail free” card when central elements of the administration’s bill are again challenged by the courts. Secondly, it addressed the concerns of our top military lawyers for the protection of our men and women in uniform.
“Finally, it also reflects strong thinking from key leaders on these issues in both parties and in both houses of Congress. In recent weeks, I have been in communication with Senator McCain and other key Senate leaders, as well as my colleagues in the House. I believe the substitute I offered was a better course to take.
“My proposal would have provided the President with the toughest, swiftest, most certain way to responsibly prosecute accused terrorists, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, because it would stand up to scrutiny from the Supreme Court. I have serious concerns that any system that fails to provide the accused with access to evidence against him will be thrown out by the courts and delay justice even further for these most dangerous individuals.
“We must also protect our servicemembers. My proposal would have created a tribunal system that lives up to the standards of the Geneva Conventions, thus ensuring that our troops will be treated fairly and humanely in future conflicts.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues here in the House and in the Senate as the bill moves to the House floor to achieve a tough and swift system for these trials that can stand up to court scrutiny.”