Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:

I understand the Department of Defense is now drafting the rules that will implement the President's order authorizing military commissions to try suspected terrorists. I write to urge you to ensure the commissions provide defendants with full due process protections.

The trial of those accused of responsibility for the attacks of September 11 must comport with basic principles of justice - principles enshrined in our legal traditions, our system of military justice, and in international law. Full and fair trials are necessary to guarantee that justice is done and also that justice is seen to be done.

The President's order was deeply troubling because it opened the possibility of military trials exactly like those America has condemned abroad. Yet the Defense Department itself has a system of military justice that is a model of fairness and respect for individual rights, and one that, by definition, works for times of war as well as for times of peace.

I hope the Defense Department will create rules for the commissions that stay true to U.S. traditions. At the very least, the commissions should be used to try only persons engaged in armed conflict against the United States for violations of the laws of war. All defendants should be able to file a habeas corpus petition to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. All trials should be public. And basic due process protections used in courts-martial proceedings should be applied -- including right of defendants to have counsel of their choice, to cross-examine witnesses, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, and to be able to appeal to a higher court.

I believe America should not abandon its commitment to human rights in times of conflict, but affirm it as an enduring source of national strength. I hope the Defense Department agrees.