Remarks on the Military Commissions Act


The Military Commissions Act was signed by the President a few weeks ago, and a lot of questions have been raised around the world in response. In fact, I just returned from London last night, where I was giving a talk at the London School of Economics explaining the legislation and its implications. Because I know that people are very interested in this topic right now, I jumped at Jack Goldsmith’s invitation to speak to you about it. I have a few things to say to begin, after which I hope to move on to an open discussion.

Since 2005, when I became the Legal Adviser to the Secretary of State, detainee issues have arisen as one of the more troubling challenges facing Secretary Rice as she engages in diplomacy around the world. These issues have caused great controversy among friends, allies, and critics alike. And, the more involved Dr. Rice has become in the debate, the more opportunities I have had to take the lead in shaping the State Department’s approach to the topic.

The legal complexity of detainee issues makes it difficult for embassies and ambassadors around the world to appraise and discuss the subject. Unfortunately, over the past three or four years, the State Department has not done its best to
answer questions, clarify policies, or explain its actions to our allies. Dr. Rice has asked me to address this communications problem.