Thursday, January 04, 2007

The year in civil liberties

Dahlia Lithwick provided the rundown in the Washington Post. Some highlights:

The Bush administration's argument in court is that judges should dismiss entire lawsuits over many of the outrages detailed on this very list. Why? Because the outrageously illegal things are themselves matters of top-secret national security. The administration has raised this claim in relation to secret wiretapping and extraordinary renditions. A government privilege once used to sidestep civil claims has mushroomed into broad immunity for the administration's sometimes criminal behavior.

If government can cover up illegal activity simply by declaring it classified, we have no effective oversight of our elected officials.

Government Snooping: Take your pick. There's the continued defense of the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping program wherein the president breezily authorized spying on the phone calls of innocent citizens, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The FBI's Talon database shows that the government has been spying on non-terrorist groups including Quakers, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Veterans for Peace. And that's just the stuff we know about.

All stuff I've written about before, all stuff that should remind us of the very worst of the McCarthy and Nixon eras.

Jose Padilla. First, he was "exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or 'dirty bomb,' in the United States," according to then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft. Then, he was planning to blow up apartments and, later, was part of a vague terrorism conspiracy to commit jihad in Bosnia and Chechnya. Always, he was a U.S. citizen. After 3 1/2 years in which he was denied the most basic legal rights, it has emerged that Padilla was either outright tortured or near-tortured and, according to experts, is too mentally damaged now to stand trial. The Bush administration supported his motion for a mental competency assessment, in hopes that such a motion would help prevent his torture claims from going to trial. As Yale Law School's Jack Balkin put it: "You can't believe Padilla when he says we tortured him because he's crazy from all the things we did to him."

And let's not forget that the government defended its right to hold him as an "enemy combatant" until a court ordered them to provide actual evidence to support such a designation -- at which point the administration abruptly dropped all terrorism charges and dumped him into the civil courts. This is the same administration that asks us to just trust that they're doing the right thing.

Never mind civil liberties. At this point, they have to first convince us that they're actually competent.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's EXACTLY why this shouldn't be in federal court and why that judge was absolutely wrong to rule the way he/she did.

Let's ask all the liberals who are defending this man's "civil rights" if they'd like to see him released into the public---and if they'd like to have him living next door to them?

JP5

1/04/2007 3:49 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

So your argument is that unpleasant people shouldn't have civil rights?

1/04/2007 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No. My argument is that terrorists who want to kill us shouldn't have civil rights.

JP5

1/04/2007 7:24 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Actually, you're arguing that suspected terrorists shouldn't have civil rights. Even if they happen to be U.S. citizens. Meaning the government can detain anybody it wants to just because it wants to; all they have to do is claim you're a terrorist.

No thanks. Civil rights either exist or they don't; you don't get to pick and choose which suspects get them and which don't.

1/04/2007 9:31 PM  

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