Here's a piece by Nat Hentoff for the Village Voice:
On Thursday, November 15, William Safire—The New York Times' constitutional conservative—distilled Bush's new raid on the Constitution:
"Misadvised by a frustrated and panic-stricken attorney general, a president of the United States has just assumed what amounts to dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens. . . . We are letting George W. Bush get away with the replacement of the American rule of law with military kangaroo courts. . . . In an Orwellian twist, Bush's order calls this Soviet-style abomination 'a full and fair trial.' "
What Bush has done by executive order—bypassing Congress and the constitutional separation of powers—is to establish special military tribunals to try noncitizens suspected of terrorism. Their authority will extend over permanent noncitizen American residents, lawfully living in the United States, as well as foreigners.
The trials will be held here or in other countries—like Pakistan or "liberated" Afghanistan—and on ships at sea. The trials will be in secret. There will be no juries. Panels of military officers will be the judges—with the power to impose the death penalty if two-thirds of these uniformed judges agree. There will be no appeals to any of the sentences. (Even in regular court martials, judges must rule unanimously for executions.)
The defendants may not be able to choose their own counsel—lawyers who, after all, might get in the way of the swift justice commander in chief Bush has ordered.
The military tribunal will have other, more extensive ways to undermine the rule of law than exist in court martials or regular trials. The evidence to be allowed will be without the range of protections accorded defendants in what used to be the American system of justice.
For example, under "the exclusionary rule" in American courts, illegally obtained evidence cannot be used at a trial. Neither can hearsay evidence, which can include rumor and other unverified information about which a witness has no personal knowledge. Such evidence helps produce a death sentence.
Much of the prosecution's evidence will be withheld from the defendant and from whatever lawyer he or she can get because it will allegedly be based on classified intelligence sources. And the military officers in charge will, of course, decide the severe limits on the defense in other respects as well. These secret trials will be based, to a large extent, on secret evidence.