People For The American Way weighs in:
"This legislation turns our system of justice upside down, betrays basic American values of fairness and justice, and undermines the rule of law. It gives the Bush administration a blank check to detain whoever it sees fit, and to use whatever interrogation techniques it wants, without oversight. It deprives detainees of habeas corpus—their right to challenge their imprisonment in the courts—and it may make them vulnerable to the use of secret or coerced evidence. Adding insult to injury, this legislation includes a blanket waiver letting members of this administration off the hook for potential violations of the law. What a disgrace.
"Some senators probably supported this measure because they were worried about being perceived as soft on terrorism. But capitulation doesn’t make them look strong. If they want to win the votes of people who are worried about security, they had better show that they know how to stand up and fight. Unfortunately for our democracy, too many of them have failed to do so today."
The American Civil Liberties Union chimes in:
The American Civil Liberties Union expressed distress as the Senate adopted S.3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006. That bill is identical to legislation adopted by the House yesterday, and removes important checks on the president by: failing to protect due process, eliminating habeas corpus for many detainees, undermining enforcement of the Geneva Conventions, and giving a "get out of jail free card" to senior officials who authorized or ordered illegal torture and abuse.
"This legislation gives the president new unchecked powers to detain, abuse, and try people at Guantanamo Bay and other government facilities around the world," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Unfortunately for America, the Senate chose not to deliberate today. Instead, it joined the House and President Bush in jamming through a hastily written bill before running home to try to campaign."
Additionally, the bill undermines the American value of due process by permitting convictions based on evidence literally beaten out of a witness or obtained through other abuse by either our government or other countries. Government officials who authorized or ordered illegal acts of torture and abuse would receive retroactive immunity for many of these acts, providing a "get out of jail free" card that is backdated nine years.
"Nothing could be less American than a government that can indefinitely hold people in secret torture cells, take away their protections against horrific and cruel abuse, put them on trial based on evidence that they cannot see, sentence them to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and then slam shut the courthouse door for any habeas petition," said Christopher Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. "But that’s exactly what Congress just approved."
Last, but certaintly not least, Amnesty International becries passage:
Amnesty International is deeply concerned that today's passage of legislation by the U.S. Senate calls into question the United States' commitment to fundamental principles of justice and fair trials. The "Military Commissions Act," first approved by the House on Wednesday, fails to provide clarification of basic standards for treatment of persons in detention. Instead the bill adds more confusion where illumination was sought.
"Many have looked to the United States, as the world's sole superpower, to set the standard for human rights," said Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA executive director. "However, today Congress has sent the wrong message by refusing to affirm basic, universal standards recognized under human rights and humanitarian law. Rather than steering a clear course to uphold established standards of U.S. and international law, the bill creates new standards that appear to fall short and raise questions about the U.S. government's commitment to American values of due process and integrity.
"Amnesty International commends the senators and members of Congress who voted against this legislation. They took a principled stand by casting an important vote in favor of human rights, the rule of law and our nation's standing in the international community," added Cox.