Military Commissions Act Amendments Head to Obama for Signature

October 23, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

This post has been corrected. Previously, the post was incorrectly based on an earlier version of the bill.

The Military Commissions Act amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (H.R. 2647) were approved in Congress yesterday and are en route to the President for his signature. The full text of the bill is here.

Interestingly, despite the President’s statements and other indications that the Obama administration prefers Article III civilian federal courts to try terrorism cases, the new Military Commissions Act seems to favor trials in military commissions for “unprivileged enemy belligerents” (previously known as “enemy combatants”), who make up the bulk of detainees at Guantanamo Bay not yet cleared for release, by keeping the commissions’ jurisdiction over them broad. Attempts at narrowing who is subject to military commission jurisdiction failed.

Significantly, however, the final bill dropped an earlier provision, which explicitly stated that it is the “sense of Congress” that military commissions are “the preferred forum for the trial of alien unprivileged enemy belligerents”.