The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #95076   Message #1847313
Posted By: katlaughing
30-Sep-06 - 11:36 PM
Thread Name: BS: US Welcomes back legal torture
Subject: RE: BS: US Wecolmes back legal torture
I may be wrong, Don:

In Case I Disappear
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 29 September 2006

I have been told a thousand times at least, in the years I have
spent reporting on the astonishing and repugnant abuses, lies and
failures of the Bush administration, to watch my back. "Be careful,"
people always tell me. "These people are capable of anything. Stay
off small planes, make sure you aren't being followed." A running
joke between my mother and me is that she has a "safe room" set up
for me in her cabin in the woods, in the event I have to flee
because of something I wrote or said.

I always laughed and shook my head whenever I heard this stuff.
Extreme paranoia wrapped in the tinfoil of conspiracy, I thought.
This is still America, and these Bush fools will soon pass into
history, I thought. I am a citizen, and the First Amendment hasn't
yet been red-lined, I thought.

Matters are different now.

It seems, perhaps, that the people who warned me were not so
paranoid. It seems, perhaps, that I was not paranoid enough.
Legislation passed by the Republican House and Senate, legislation
now marching up to the Republican White House for signature, has
shattered a number of bedrock legal protections for suspects,
prisoners, and pretty much anyone else George W. Bush deems to be an
enemy.

So much of this legislation is wretched on the surface. Habeas
corpus has been suspended for detainees suspected of terrorism or of
aiding terrorism, so the Magna Carta-era rule that a person can face
his accusers is now gone. Once a suspect has been thrown into
prison, he does not have the right to a trial by his peers Suspects
cannot even stand in representation of themselves, another ancient
protection, but must accept a military lawyer as their defender.

Illegally-obtained evidence can be used against suspects, whether
that illegal evidence was gathered abroad or right here at home. To
my way of thinking, this pretty much eradicates our security in
persons, houses, papers, and effects, as stated in the Fourth
Amendment, against illegal searches and seizures.

Speaking of collecting evidence, the torture of suspects and
detainees has been broadly protected by this new legislation. While
it tries to delineate what is and is not acceptable treatment of
detainees, in the end, it gives George W. Bush the final word on
what constitutes torture. US officials who use cruel, inhumane or
degrading treatment to extract information from detainees are now
shielded from prosecution.

It was two Supreme Court decisions, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Hamdan v.
Rumsfeld, that compelled the creation of this legislation. The Hamdi
decision held that a prisoner has the right of habeas corpus, and
can challenge his detention before an impartial judge. The Hamdan
decision held that the military commissions set up to try detainees
violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva
Conventions

In short, the Supreme Court wiped out virtually every legal argument
the Bush administration put forth to defend its extraordinary and
dangerous behavior. The passage of this legislation came after a
scramble by Republicans to paper over the torture and murder of a
number of detainees. As columnist Molly Ivins wrote on
Wednesday, "Of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have
ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this
bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken
place."

It seems almost certain that, at some point, the Supreme Court will
hear a case to challenge the legality of this legislation, but even
this is questionable. If a detainee is not allowed access to a fair
trial or to the evidence against him, how can he bring a legal
challenge to a court? The legislation, in anticipation of court
challenges like Hamdi and Hamdan, even includes severe restrictions
on judicial review over the legislation itself.

The Republicans in Congress have managed, at the behest of Mr. Bush,
to draft a bill that all but erases the judicial branch of the
government. Time will tell whether this aspect, along with all the
others, will withstand legal challenges. If such a challenge comes,
it will take time, and meanwhile there is this bill. All of the
above is deplorable on its face, indefensible in a nation that
prides itself on Constitutional rights, protections and the rule of
law.

Underneath all this, however, is where the paranoia sets in.

Underneath all this is the definition of "enemy combatant" that has
been established by this legislation. An "enemy combatant" is now no
longer just someone captured "during an armed conflict" against our
forces. Thanks to this legislation, George W. Bush is now able to
designate as an "enemy combatant" anyone who has "purposefully and
materially supported hostilities against the United States."

Consider that language a moment. "Purposefully and materially
supported hostilities against the United States" is in the eye of
the beholder, and this administration has proven itself to be
astonishingly impatient with criticism of any kind. The broad powers
given to Bush by this legislation allow him to capture, indefinitely
detain, and refuse a hearing to any American citizen who speaks out
against Iraq or any other part of the so-called "War on Terror."

If you write a letter to the editor attacking Bush, you could be
deemed as purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against
the United States. If you organize or join a public demonstration
against Iraq, or against the administration, the same designation
could befall you. One dark-comedy aspect of the legislation is that
senators or House members who publicly disagree with Bush, criticize
him, or organize investigations into his dealings could be placed
under the same designation. In effect, Congress just gave Bush the
power to lock them up.

By writing this essay, I could be deemed an "enemy combatant." It's
that simple, and very soon, it will be the law. I always laughed
when people told me to be careful. I'm not laughing anymore.

In case I disappear, remember this. America is an idea, a dream, and
that is all. We have borders and armies and citizens and commerce
and industry, but all this merely makes us like every other nation
on this Earth. What separates us is the idea, the simple idea, that
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our organizing
principles. We can think as we please, speak as we please, write as
we please, worship as we please, go where we please. We are
protected from the kinds of tyranny that inspired our creation as a
nation in the first place.

That was the idea. That was the dream. It may all be over now, but
once upon a time, it existed. No good idea ever truly dies. The
dream was here, and so was I, and so were you.