President Bush approved the use of a special military tribunal Tuesday that could put accused terrorists on trial faster and in greater secrecy than an ordinary criminal court. The United States has not convened such a tribunal since World War II.
Bush signed an order establishing the government's right to use such a court but preserving the option of a conventional trial.
"This is a new tool to use against terrorism," White House counsel Albert Gonzales said.
Bush's order does not require approval from Congress.
Detention and trial of accused terrorists by a military tribunal is necessary "to protect the United States and its citizens, and for the effective conduct of military operations and prevention of terrorist attacks," the five-page order said.
The order sets out many of the rules for any military tribunal and the rights of anyone held accountable there. A senior Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said only noncitizens would be tried before the military commission.
ADVICE ON WALKING THE HIGH WIRE: Former CBS newsman Walter Cronkite and former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Army, Gen. Wesley K. Clark, will serve on a private panel that will advise policy makers on how to balance protection of civil liberties and free speech with pursuit of military initiatives during wartime.
Created by the Constitution Project, a nonprofit organization based at Georgetown University, the 26-member panel will include leaders in law, military and journalism, such as former FBI director William S. Sessions and John Podesta, a White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration.
In response to the war on terrorism, the panel will counsel policymakers on how to resolve emerging conflicts between civil liberties and security concerns, which have often occurred during wartime.
BRITAIN LOOKS TO LIMIT RIGHTS: Britain is seeking a host of new law enforcement powers it says are needed to combat terrorism, including the authority to detain some suspects indefinitely without trial.
That proposal outraged civil liberties advocates, who said it violated a fundamental freedom.
Prime Minister Tony Blair defended the wide-ranging bill as a prudent response to a risk of terrorism that has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill _ which the government hopes to see become law by mid December _ also includes measures that would broaden the government's power to freeze suspected terrorists' assets, curtail their asylum rights and let government agencies share some confidential information with law enforcement.