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18 July 2006

Military Commissions Protect Intelligence, Attorney General Says

Gonzales urges Congress to set procedures for detainees

Washington – Military commissions are a useful way to try terrorists while protecting military intelligence and sources, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee July 18.

In his testimony, Gonzales said "the most obvious and feasible way to ensure that military commissions remain available as a tool to protect America and bring terrorists to justice is for Congress to establish the commissions' procedures."

Gonzales said members of Congress should consider the military commission procedures devised by the Department of Defense and the Uniform Code of Military Justice as useful resources when developing appropriate procedures for trying detainees in the War on Terror.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's June 29 ruling, the application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions must be defined, Gonzales said.  "Because Common Article 3 applies to our conflict with al-Qaida, it is imperative that we as a nation are clear about exactly what that requires of our men and women on the front lines."

The court ruled that the current military commissions violate U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions. (See related article.)

On July 7, the Department of Defense announced that the Geneva Conventions would apply to all detainees.  In a Pentagon memo, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England requested that staff "promptly review all relevant directives, regulations, policies, practices and procedures under your purview to ensure that they comply with the standards of Common Article 3."  Common Article 3 states that detainees must be treated humanely and be afforded the same judicial guarantees "which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."  (See related article.)

In his testimony, the attorney general also discussed recent media publications of classified intelligence programs.  The disclosure by the media of these programs, which are vital to national security, Gonzales said, put American lives at risk.  He noted that other administration officials have testified before Congress about how these surveillance programs help detect and prevent terror plots in the United States and abroad.

A full text of Gonzales's prepared testimony is available on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Web site.

For additional information, see Detainee Issues.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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