Why are we arguing over terrorist rights?

February 11, 2008 | Filed Under Law | Leave a Comment 

It’s simple, really.  A terrorist is a label that we use for extremists who use tactics that don’t sit well within our culture.  As Americans, we tend to forget that “the War on terror” is a war against a tactic.   Unless the alleged criminals have been convicted of crimes against the United States, they should not be denied the right to a fair trial and adequate defense.   The U.S. military and our leadership is setting a bad precedent as we move forward with our war on terror because if the tables were turned and our soldiers or federal agents were captured, it would be unacceptable for a military tribunal belonging to ‘ the enemy ‘ to use their system to impose justice on our soldiers.

Why bring up this issue now, what’s the point?

Six men being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will go before military commissions and could face the death penalty if it is judged they were involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks, a general said Monday.

Take the case of  Iran for example.  Our government has gone so far as to label the Iranian National Guard as terrorists.   By doing that, of course it legitimizes any action taken against the guard (to an extent) and makes it more difficult for anti-war and ‘justice’ advocates to operate.

 The men will be treated like members of the U.S. military during their judicial proceedings, he said.

Why are we treating alleged criminals / terrorists as military?  Military tribunals don’t afford anywhere near the amount of rights needed to provide an adequate defense for these people.  Our system of justice and our national history suggests that we always err on the side of caution when it comes to human and legal rights.  A military that would try alleged criminals who were tortured and provided information as a result of the assault is difficult to justify as impartial.   I’d like to see these men sent to prison or put to death just like any person who felt the shock of 9/11 would, but there’s a right and wrong way to get this done.

There is another problem with using the military route to impose justice on the alleged terrorists.   Amidst speculation of water-boarding, torture, and other illegal war crimes this is the surest way to dispose of any testimony that could be made to incriminate the men accountable for these actions.  This reminds me of the destruction of the water-boarding videos, it seems like destroying evidence is more important than seeking justice and answering the questions that remain after 9/11.

 The proceedings will be dictated by the Military Commissions Act, which Congress passed to handle arrestees in the war on terror. The act requires that the detainees have access to lawyers as well as to any evidence presented against them.  They also will have the right to appeal a guilty verdict, potentially through a civilian appeals court and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the act. The government plans to make the proceedings as public as possible, said Brig Gen. Thomas Hartmann.

This is the only hint of positive news that comes of the latest news regarding Guantanamo Bay detainees.  However, if a military trial is used there is a chance that the civilian courts will still not be used to obtain the proper ruling based on all of the evidence.  What this does is seals off the public to the actions that took place before, on and after September 11th.  It forever closes the door to understanding what went on and the mistakes that  may or may not have been made in carrying out our law enforcement.

Further, it’s problematic that a verdict might be had with a potential for appeals or Supreme Court access at a later date.  This could not only taint the evidence or seal off use of specific types of evidence, but it’ll also taint future decisions by civilian appeals courts.  Bias and prejudice is a problem that occurs when a decision has been rendered by the military and I guarantee you that the U.S. will vigorously defend the military decision and possibly attempt to use procedural issues to get around the cases being heard on the merits.

What is murkier, however, is whether a military prosecutor will be able to use any information or confessions gleaned through controversial tactics like waterboarding, an interrogation technique designed to simulate drowning. That will be up to a judge to decide, Hartmann said.  “It’s our obligation to move the process forward to give these people their rights,” he said. “We are going to give them rights that are virtually identical to the rights we provide to our military members.”

Not all connected with the military are convinced, however.

Despite Hartmann’s guarantees, Charles Swift, a former U.S. Navy attorney, said the process will not afford detainees an adequate defense. He also raised concerns that trying and executing the men unfairly could make them martyrs in the eyes of extremists.

“The losers will be the American public unless some fundamental changes are made very quickly,” he said.

Which brings up an interesting point, again.  Part of the disconnect between our understanding of the middle east and our role in the Iraq War has to do with our lack of public insight into American history and actions over seas.  A lot of the criminals (like Saddam Hussein) that we’ve sought to prosecute are products of the CIA or United States foreign policy.  Do we want to further create conflict and give extremists another excuse to attack our people or bases?

Finally, we’ve lost our sight on the most important aspect of this trial.  The attack of 9/11 is one that belongs to the American people.  This is our country and the military attempting to hijack justice on this matter will only create additional conflict and distrust between the people and government.   It’ll give these men a martyr status and the Osama Bin Ladens of the world will use this as yet another reason that the U.S. is evil and must be ‘dealt with’.  As this process takes place, we need to be weary of losing our identity to pushers of nationalist ideals and political agendas.

Thank God For Libertarians

February 1, 2008 | Filed Under Law | Leave a Comment 

Representative Ron Paul On “Protect America Act of 2007″
TX-R US House of Representatives, Jan. 30, 2008

Madame Speaker,

I rise in opposition to the extension of the Protect America Act of 2007 because the underlying legislation violates the US Constitution.

The misnamed Protect America Act allows the US government to monitor telephone calls and other electronic communications of American citizens without a warrant. This clearly violates the Fourth Amendment, which states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Protect America Act sidelines the FISA Court system and places authority over foreign surveillance in the director of national intelligence and the attorney general with little if any oversight. While proponents of this legislation have argued that the monitoring of American citizens would still require a court-issued warrant, the bill only requires that subjects be “reasonably believed to be outside the United States.” Further, it does not provide for the Fourth Amendment protection of American citizens if they happen to be on the other end of the electronic communication where the subject of surveillance is a non-citizen overseas.

We must remember that the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed in 1978 as a result of the U.S. Senate investigations into the federal government’s illegal spying on American citizens. Its purpose was to prevent the abuse of power from occurring in the future by establishing guidelines and prescribing oversight to the process. It was designed to protect citizens, not the government. The effect seems to have been opposite of what was intended. These recent attempts to “upgrade” FISA do not appear to be designed to enhance protection of our civil liberties, but to make it easier for the government to spy on us!

The only legitimate “upgrade” to the original FISA legislation would be to allow surveillance of conversations that begin and end outside the United States between non-US citizens where the telephone call is routed through the United States . Technology and the global communications market have led to more foreign to foreign calls being routed through the United States . This adjustment would solve the problems outlined by the administration without violating the rights of US citizens.

While I would not oppose technical changes in FISA that the intelligence community has indicated are necessary, Congress should not use this opportunity to chip away at even more of our constitutional protections and civil liberties. I urge my colleagues to oppose this and any legislation that violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

Cafferty: it is time to impeach Bush / Cheney

January 8, 2008 | Filed Under Law | Leave a Comment 

Will the media start with the impeachment calls? It seems this is long overdue.

CNN’s The Cafferty File

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should marriage be a question for the State?

November 27, 2007 | Filed Under Law | Leave a Comment 

Very interesting question in the NY Times on defining marriage and why the state has a role in determining who can and cannot marry.

WHY do people — gay or straight — need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity.

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.

Guess what, it’s the taxes stupid!

In the mid-20th century, governments began to get out of the business of deciding which couples were “fit” to marry. Courts invalidated laws against interracial marriage, struck down other barriers and even extended marriage rights to prisoners.

But governments began relying on marriage licenses for a new purpose: as a way of distributing resources to dependents. The Social Security Act provided survivors’ benefits with proof of marriage. Employers used marital status to determine whether they would provide health insurance or pension benefits to employees’ dependents. Courts and hospitals required a marriage license before granting couples the privilege of inheriting from each other or receiving medical information.

In the 1950s, using the marriage license as a shorthand way to distribute benefits and legal privileges made some sense because almost all adults were married. Cohabitation and single parenthood by choice were very rare.

Can we really blame social security and redistribution of wealth and taxes as the reason marriage is bound by the state? Christians today use the State as morality police, if you aren’t in line with their values, you are shit out of luck.

Today, however, possession of a marriage license tells us little about people’s interpersonal responsibilities. Half of all Americans aged 25 to 29 are unmarried, and many of them already have incurred obligations as partners, parents or both. Almost 40 percent of America’s children are born to unmarried parents. Meanwhile, many legally married people are in remarriages where their obligations are spread among several households.

Using the existence of a marriage license to determine when the state should protect interpersonal relationships is increasingly impractical. Society has already recognized this when it comes to children, who can no longer be denied inheritance rights, parental support or legal standing because their parents are not married.

Impracticality is our government’s middle name! I love the enthusiasm and motivation behind the author’s commentary, but government and religion are so deeply intertwined that it’ll be next to impossible to change.

As Nancy Polikoff, an American University law professor, argues, the marriage license no longer draws reasonable dividing lines regarding which adult obligations and rights merit state protection. A woman married to a man for just nine months gets Social Security survivor’s benefits when he dies. But a woman living for 19 years with a man to whom she isn’t married is left without government support, even if her presence helped him hold down a full-time job and pay Social Security taxes. A newly married wife or husband can take leave from work to care for a spouse, or sue for a partner’s wrongful death. But unmarried couples typically cannot, no matter how long they have pooled their resources and how faithfully they have kept their commitments.

Possession of a marriage license is no longer the chief determinant of which obligations a couple must keep, either to their children or to each other. But it still determines which obligations a couple can keep — who gets hospital visitation rights, family leave, health care and survivor’s benefits. This may serve the purpose of some moralists. But it doesn’t serve the public interest of helping individuals meet their care-giving commitments.

Perhaps it’s time to revert to a much older marital tradition. Let churches decide which marriages they deem “licit.” But let couples — gay or straight — decide if they want the legal protections and obligations of a committed relationship.

Welcome to America, what this author is proposing is politically sound, even fair, but because religion is in bed with government, I could never imagine the problem of gay marriage being dismantled so effortlessly. It’ll take some liberal activism and impartial justice to win on this issue, but best of luck on this issue. Maybe Ron Paul’s movement and libertarian infiltration of government ranks will help correct the dysfunctional and awkward American policy.

Fox News hates the troops, attacks America

November 25, 2007 | Filed Under Law | 1 Comment 

Fox News continues to surprise me. Yesterday morning I watched in awe as a segment on Fox News was dedicated to discussing the ramifications of the terribly drafted Patriot Act. Along with millions of Democrats and Libertarians, I’ve been bitching non-stop about the patriot act due to multiple illegal provisions, some of which have been struck down. The government has been treading in dangerous territory with the way they’ve governed the United States throughout President Bush’s terms in office.

I am elated to share, at least one segment, where Fox News has aired a video that is not built on conservative propaganda, but concerned with the rights of American citizens.

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I love Fox News for the moment, it’s unfortunate that this guy will probably get fired for saying what most Americans believe is the truth.

CIA lied to judge in high profile case

November 23, 2007 | Filed Under Law | 2 Comments 

Judge Brinkema made a statement recently that implied a lack of faith in government to handle certain cases. The CIA intentionally withheld information that was critical to the issue of justice and the judge is concerned.

At a post-trial hearing Tuesday for Ali al-Timimi, a Muslim cleric from Virginia sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for soliciting treason, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she can no longer trust the CIA and other government agencies on how they represent classified evidence in terror cases. Attorneys for al-Timimi have been seeking access to documents. They also want to depose government witnesses to determine whether the government improperly failed to disclose the existence of certain evidence. The prosecutors have asked her to dismiss the defense request.

The government has denied the allegations but has done so in secret pleadings to the judge that defense lawyers are not allowed to see. Even the lead prosecutors in the al-Timimi case have not had access to the information; they have relied on the representations of other government lawyers. After the hearing, the judge issued an order that said she would not rule on the prosecutors’ motion until the government grants needed security clearances to al-Timimi’s defense lawyer, Jonathan Turley, and the lead trial prosecutor so they can review the secret pleadings.

Brinkema said she no longer feels confident relying on the government briefs, particularly since prosecutors admitted last week that similar representations made in the Moussaoui case were false. In a letter made public Nov. 13, prosecutors in the Moussaoui case admitted to Brinkema that the CIA had wrongly assured her that no videotapes or audiotapes existed of interrogations of certain high-profile terrorism detainees.

As a kid, I was always a big fan of the CIA. The idea of a rogue-like organization that works for the United States government. The CIA have always been depicted as shadow warriors if-you-will that become heroes of all growing young men. I always fantasized about being one of these shadows, going out into the world and knocking off the bad guys. In my dreams, I was invisible, I was licensed to kill and serve in a highly exciting world of good guys and bad guys.

Even today, I’m still into flicks like those that center around Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt, but I am concerned that the U.S. government has gone beyond the rogue justice into an all out assault on civil rights. The big issue today is where do you draw the line? Should the government have access to the records of all citizens, even those that are innocent of any and all wrongdoing? Proponents of a more fascist State often argue that “if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” That’s a cop out of the argument though, because the truth is that we’ve always lived in an “Innocent until proven Guilty” system of government. The new rules pushed by proponents of the “Patriot” Act and other such garbage policies are continuing to blur the legal lines.

The problem isn’t just with the issue of justice and civil rights, but the fact that Americans are losing faith in government. If we don’t believe in our government to do this ‘dirty’ work, then we have a problem. I’m not of the school of though that suggests “trust the government at all costs”, obviously! So, what I suggest is that government needs to do a better job of regulating its thugs. I don’t accept that we need to do away with all rogue agencies that do the bidding of the U.S. government, it’s just not a realistic approach to governing. At the same time, there should be a proper balance between the rights of citizens and security and right now that balance is way off.

evidence of President Bush’s treason revealed

November 20, 2007 | Filed Under Law | Leave a Comment 

The President can deny his involvement in federal crimes all he wants, but sooner or later the truth is going to come out and it’s going to sting. America needs some kind of justice, in fact ‘justice’ itself needs vindication, because it has been cast aside as anti-American for some time now. What are we going to do with this President? He outs a federal agent because her husband doesn’t like him and exonerates the one man that was a proven link to all of the corruption. Maybe President Bush’s biggest mistake in office from a personal standpoint, won’t be that he lied about Iraq, but that he was so interested in getting his friends off the hook that he’s going to end up taking the fall. The best part of it all is that he is responsible for violating the law and betraying the trust of American citizens and in the end, the right perpetrator may pay the ultimate price.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The White House is denying a claim in a new book by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan that top administration officials — including President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney — were involved in his “unknowingly” passing along false information about the involvement of Karl Rove and Lewis “Scooter” Libby in the leak of a CIA operative’s identity.

Amid a burgeoning controversy about the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s name, McClellan went to the White House podium in October 2003 and told reporters that Rove, the president’s top political adviser, and Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, had not been involved.

“There was one problem. It was not true,” McClellan writes in his new book, “What Happened,” which is scheduled to be released in April. “I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president’s chief of staff and the president himself.”

Reacting to the release of an excerpt from McClellan’s book, which was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the book’s publisher, PublicAffairs, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said, “The president has not misled his spokespeople, nor would he.”

The portion of McClellan’s book released by PublicAffairs did not give any specifics about the actions of Bush, Cheney, Libby, Rove or then-Chief of Staff Andrew Card with regard to McClellan’s dissemination of the false information.

There was no immediate comment from McClellan, who served as White House press secretary from July 2003 until April 2006.

In the excerpt, McClellan writes that “the most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.”

In March, Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to investigators and a federal grand jury about his contacts with reporters concerning Wilson, the wife of Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador who had accused the Bush administration of misrepresenting intelligence on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

If you want to read the above article in its entirety, you can read it here: “ex-aide points finger at Bush for CIA leak

In case you’re not familiar with why this is such a big deal, it can be summarized using a single word: TREASON.