Thursday, October 26, 2006


Marine Corps Colonel Dwight Sullivan reports at CAAFlog a major change to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) extending military jurisdiction over a great number of civilians not previously covered including defense industry contractors.

The new law "tweaks" the UCMJ by allowing for military prosecutions of civilians accompanying the armed forces during periods of "contingency operations," in addition to times of declared war. Col. Sullivan writes, "We have been engaged in a great many more contingency operations" than declared wars. Sullivan continues, "It will be interesting to see whether -- and, if so, how -- the military takes advantage of this major expansion of court-martial jurisdiction."

This could mean for instance the next time a nuclear missile accident--BROKEN ARROW-- occurs, civilian contractors and dockside workers could face court-martial next to military personnel depending upon the circumstances as determined by military governors.

Embedded reporters and journalists are now under UCMJ jurisdiction while operating with U.S. forces during contingency operations (see listing above).

Counselor Eugene Fidell, president and director of the National Institute of Military Justice, is concerned that "If the armed forces were ever to use this new provision to court-martial a civilian," there would be situations making U.S. Supreme Court review impossible.

The term "contingency operation" applies to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and to Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.

Col. Sullivan is a six year ACLU veteran and current chief defense counsel for the Pentagon's military tribunals.

Language amending the UCMJ is found in the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. The legislation passed in the House of Representatives by a roll call vote (396 Ayes, 31 Nays, 5 Present/Not Voting). Representative Duncan Hunter (R- 52nd CA) sponsored the House version. Representative Ike Skelton (D-4th MO) co-sponsored the bill. Among those voting "yes" were Rep. Norm Dicks (D-6th WA known as Washington state's third senator) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-3rd OH) writing here.

The measure carried in the Senate by Unamimous Consent. A record of each senator's position was not kept.

No congressional hearings were conducted to consider amendment of the UCMJ prior to passage.

Commander in Chief George Bush signed into law the 2007 Defense Act during a small gathering in the Oval Offfice 17 October.

Passage of this legislation represents the most expansive extension of attainder power over U.S. citizens since the Civil War as reported here and at The JAGMIRE yesterday. With the potential explosion in work load service TJAGs are justified in recruiting more attorneys, requesting increased dollars for operating budgets, and requests they be elevated to 3-star rank.

The JAG Hunter 2006©


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