Terror trials will allow hearsay, Pentagon says
Jan. 19, 2007 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon set rules Thursday for detainee trials that could allow terror suspects to be convicted and perhaps executed using hearsay testimony and coerced statements, setting up a new clash between President Bush and Congress.
The rules are fair, said the Pentagon, which released them in a manual for the expected trials. Democrats controlling Congress said they will hold hearings and revive legislation on the plan, and human rights organizations complained that the regulations would allow evidence that would not be tolerated in civilian or military courtrooms.
According to the 238-page manual, a detainee's lawyer could not reveal classified evidence in the person's defense until the government had a chance to review it. Suspects would be allowed to view summaries of classified evidence, not the material itself.
The new regulations lack some protections used in civilian and military courtrooms, such as against coerced or hearsay evidence.
They are intended to track a law passed last fall by Congress restoring Bush's plans to have special military commissions try terror-war prisoners. Those commissions had been struck down earlier in the year by the Supreme Court.
There are almost 400 people suspected of ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban being held at the military's prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Congress and the White House agreed last year that hearsay, a witness quoting someone else, can be allowed as evidence if a judge rules the testimony is reliable.