President Bush signed an order yesterday allowing special military tribunals to try people accused of terrorism. A senior administration official said that any such trials would “not necessarily” be public and that the American tribunals might operate in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Under the order, the president himself is to determine who is an accused terrorist and therefore subject to trial by the tribunal. A senior Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said only non citizens would be tried before the military commission.
The United States has not convened such a tribunal since World War II.Then, President Franklin Roosevelt had suspected World War II saboteurs secretly tried by military commission, andsix were executed. The Supreme Court upheld the proceeding.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department has asked law enforcement authorities across the country to pick up and question5,000 men, most from Middle Eastern countries, who entered the country legally in the last two years.
The names of the 5,000 were compiled from immigration and State Department records of people who entered the countryon tourist, student or business visas. Only men aged 18 to 33 are on the list.
- Michael Ratner, civil rights attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.