Sen. Kennedy Criticizes Bush Judicial Pick

Writing in the Washington Post, Senator Edward Kennedy rails against the confirmation of William Haynes as Federal Appeals Court Judge:

Haynes has been nominated to the influential 4th Circuit on the basis of his work as general counsel for the Department of Defense. In that capacity he has developed and defended three of the administration's most controversial policies: the refusal to treat any of the hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions of 1949; the department's military tribunal plan for trying suspected war criminals; and even the incarceration of U.S. citizens without counsel or judicial review.

An essential part of winning the war on terrorism is protecting the ideals that the United States stands for at home and around the world. The basic checks and balances in the Constitution are indispensable to our democracy and a continuing source of our country's strength, not luxuries or inconveniences to be jettisoned in times of crisis. The mass detentions at Guantanamo have clearly damaged our reputation abroad, caused serious tensions with our allies, and violated fundamental principles of international law that have long protected U.S. soldiers serving abroad and American citizens traveling in other countries.

Here comes Haynes:

Haynes denies that any doubt exists about the identity and status of any of the detainees, in spite of multiple reports that dozens of those being held at Guantanamo are innocent noncombatants with no ties to the Taliban or al Qaeda. Surely when even our closest ally in the war on terrorism, Great Britain, decides within 24 hours that the five British citizens recently transferred at its insistence from Guantanamo to British custody pose no threat to public safety, and can be immediately released, it is time to rethink what we are doing. Does the president think Prime Minister Tony Blair is soft on terrorism?

The rules that Haynes has prepared for the Defense Department's military tribunal plan at Guantanamo have been condemned by human rights organizations and our allies. "Unjust, unwise, unAmerican" was the judgment of the Economist magazine. The military lawyers assigned to represent the detainees complain that they can appeal a verdict only to a panel chosen by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Final judgment is made by President Bush, who has said of the detainees that "the only thing I know for certain is that these are bad people."

What does this say about Haynes?

Given William Haynes's deep involvement in these issues, it is especially troubling that he has been nominated to the 4th Circuit -- the extremely conservative court that is the Bush administration's preferred venue for controversial cases on the detention of foreign nationals and other civil liberties issues. Because the Supreme Court can review only a few cases each year, the 4th Circuit often has the last word on these issues. Haynes has refused to say when, if ever, he would recuse himself in such cases.

Nominations do not get much worse than this. Haynes does not come anywhere close to the commitment to fundamental rights and the principle of separation of powers that we all expect from the federal courts. He would be a poster boy on the 4th Circuit for denying the rule of law, and he should not be confirmed.

Stop Haynes ascension to the Appellate Bench before it's too late. After reading Sen. Kennedy's letter, read the letter sent to the Judiciary Committee opposing the nomination, signed by Alliance for Justice, National Council of Jewish Women, National Organization for Women and People for the American Way. Then write your senators.

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