Friday, May 28, 2004
America deserves better # 12
The following text is an excerpt from Newsweek. It illustrates this administration's attitude to American justice as we have known it. So here we have Padilla, who is suspected of discussing or thinking about a terrorist act against America, and who is alleged to have met with "a Qaeda operative", but on whom we do not have enough evidence to charge him with anything. And so, because of a suspicion and an allegation, an American citizen is held, indefinitely, without accusation, legal representation, potential trial or other protection of law. Guilty until proved innocent? Is this our America?
And this suspension of our rights is done at the whim of one man, the President, doing whatever he feels he needs to do "to protect the country". To protect the country from what? From the embarrassment of a fair trial? Hey, if the guy is found guilty, and if it's appropriate treatment under law, let's lock him up and throw away the key. But let's not do it until he has been tried.
The implication of this approach to law is that, if an FBI agent reads my letters and alleges that I am anti-American, I can be locked up, without charge, or representation, or trial, or limit on the term of incarceration. All it takes is the allegation, no evidence necessary. Maybe it could happen to you for reading my letters.
For an interesting 30 second clip on what this means go to http://www.bushin30seconds.org/view/03_large.shtml . This is not the justice I thought we had in "my country".
America deserves better. Defeat this administration. Best regards, Murray
BY MICHAEL ISIKOFF AND DANIEL KLAIDMAN
IN SEPTEMBER 2002, JUST BEFORE- the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a group of senior Bush administration officials convened for a secret videoconference to make a difficult decision: what to do with six americans suspected of conspiring with Al Q,aeda. The Yemeni-born men from Lackawanna, N.Y., were accused of training at a camp in Afghanistan, where some had met Osama bin Laden. The president's men were divided. For Dick Cheney and his ally, Donald Rumsfeldt, the answer was simple: the accused men should he locked up indefinitely as 'enemy combatants," and thrown into a military brig with no right to trial.or even to see a lawyer. Thats what authorities had done with two other Americans, Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla. "They are the enemy, and they're right here in the country," Cheney argued, according to a participant. But others were hesitant to take the extraordinary step of stripping the men of their rights, especially because there was no evidence that they had actually carried out any terrorist acts. Instead, John Ashecroft insisted he could bring a tough criminal case against them for providing 'material support" to Al Qaeda.
The administration hadn’t anticipated that U.S. citizens might occasionally turn up in the mix. In the months after 9/11 there were fierce debates-and even shouting matches inside the White House over the treatment of Americans with suspected Qaeda ties. On one side, Ashcroft, perhaps in part protecting his turf, argued in favor of letting the criminal-justice system work, and warned that the White House had to be mindful of public opinion and a potentially wary Supreme Court. On the other, Cheney and Rumsfeld argued that in time of war there are few limits on what a President can do to protect the country.
Before long, administration officials would extend the battlefield to Chicago's O'Hare airport, where agents picked up Jose Padilla on May 8, 2002. The Muslim convert was arrested while returning home from Pakistan, where he had allegedly met with a top Qaeda operative and planned to set off a dirty bomb in the United States. He was named a material witness and appointed a lawyer. But prosecutors soon realized they didn't have enough evidence to charge him with any crime. To avoid releasing him, Bush decreed on June 9 that Padilla, too, was an enemy combatant. He was sent to a military brig in South Carolina.
At first, administration officials saw no problems with Padilla’s treatment. But as the months wore on, justice lawyers became increasingly uneasy about holding him indefinitely without counsel. Solicitor General Ted Olson warned that the tough stand would probably be rejected by the courts. Administration lawyers went so far as to predict which Supreme Court justices would ultimately side for and against them. But the White House, backed strongly by Cheney, refused to budge. Instead, NEWSWEEK has learned, officials privately debated whether to name more Americans as enemy combatants including a truck driver from Ohio and a group of men from Portland, Ore.
Last month, as the Supreme Court arguments approached, the White House backed off slightly and allowed Padilla to speak with his lawyer but only in the presence of military handlers. Padilla wasn't even allowed to tell his lawyer how he was being treated. The administration hoped the meeting would show the court that it isn't indifferent to the rights of Americans, even those suspected of terrorism. The justices will have to decide if the concession was too little, too late.