Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, June 26, 2009

  NPR: It's 'liberals' who think imprisonment without trial is unAmerican

From NPR's report this morning on a radical proposal to give the government the power to lock people up indefinitely without trial, we learn that it is only 'some liberals' who object:

Some conservatives say it will turn the battlefield into CSI: Afghanistan, requiring soldiers to collect evidence as they're being shot at. Some liberals say holding people without trial is fundamentally un-American.

Evidently conservatism has no view at all about upholding the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution:

No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law [...].

Nor the Sixth Amendment:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial...

The proponent of this legislation, Benjamin Wittes, a faux-liberal pundit now lodged at Brookings, has been pushing all manner of national security 'reforms' that undercut fundamental American liberties. Wittes wants to see a parallel system of justice created, 'national security courts', to make it easier to convict people by stripping away rights and due process protections.

His current proposal, what purports to be a draft of legislation to create a 'system' of 'preventive detention' (i.e. indefinite imprisonment without trial), tries to help Barack Obama dig himself out of the ditch he drove into with his pronouncement last month that he wishes to have the power to pick and choose from a variety of courts and military tribunals in which to put certain terrorism suspects on trial. The venue will be chosen to favor conviction, and if conviction is insufficiently certain then any prisoner deemed dangerous will continue to be held without trial indefinitely. In other words, the Obama proposal is to create a specious facsimile of due process for terrorism suspects.

Wittes is happy to pitch in to help foist a law for imprisonment without trial upon the US because, as he helpfully explained to NPR, it's effectively what George W. Bush had been doing as president.

Those concerns lead many to ask why Wittes is pushing for indefinite detention at all. We already have it, he says. Detainees have been held at Guantanamo for years. Thousands more are imprisoned in Afghanistan. The Supreme Court has said the United States can detain some terrorists for the duration of hostilities against al-Qaida and the Taliban. So, Wittes says, "There's no question that we're detaining people outside of the criminal justice system. The question is what the rules are for that detention and who makes those rules."

Next month, perhaps Wittes will also get around to drafting helpful legislation to legalize the forms of torture that the Bush administration inflicted on terrorist suspects.

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