Monday, September 12, 2005

Full court press

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has been called the worst court in the country for protection of human rights. That reputation seems well-deserved: It's hard to imagine a more outrageous, unjust, just mind-warpingly awful and awfully dangerous decision than that reported by the Washington Post on Sunday.
A federal appeals court yesterday backed the president's power to indefinitely detain a U.S. citizen captured on U.S. soil without any criminal charges, holding that such authority is vital during wartime to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.

The ruling, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, came in the case of Jose Padilla, a former gang member and U.S. citizen arrested in Chicago in 2002 and a month later designated an "enemy combatant" by President Bush. ...

A congressional resolution passed after Sept. 11 "provided the President all powers necessary and appropriate to protect American citizens from terrorist attacks," the decision said. "Those powers include the power to detain identified and committed enemies such as Padilla, who associated with al Qaeda ... who took up arms against this Nation in its war against these enemies, and who entered the United States for the avowed purpose of further prosecuting that war by attacking American citizens."
That is, in its "decision" - which I put in quotes because the word implies some actual consideration was given to alternatives, which I say did not happen here - the court declared that presidents can, on their own authority, with no need for evidence or proof, imprison US citizens without charge indefinitely and then justified that fascist - and I do not, I never, use that word lightly - insanity by mindlessly parroting the very White House claims for which the Shrub team says proof is not required.

Oh, but no, I'm too harsh, I overstate! The power to toss someone into a prison for the rest of their lives without even having to bother filing a charge is not unlimited, oh no.
The ruling limits the president's power to detain Padilla to the duration of hostilities against al Qaeda,
"hostilities" which the Shrub gang says may go on for "generations."

Which means I'm being unfair, aren't I? I mean, the power isn't, well, eternal, is it? It's just for generations. And after all, the only thing required to put an end to this power of imprisonment-by-fiat is for the president to declare that the War on Terror(c)(reg.)(pat.pend.) has been won and terrorism has disappeared from the Earth. It's only until then that presidents are free to ignore the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

So, the court tells us, for the sake of "security," anyone the Executive Branch views as an "enemy" can be imprisoned at any time, for any length of time, without charge, without recourse, a power that continues until some future president, "generations" from now, voluntarily relinquishes it - if they ever do.
Avidan Cover, a senior associate at Human Rights First, said the ruling "really flies in the face of our understanding of what rights American citizens are entitled to."
Cover is too freaking polite. What this is, is a thorough-going travesty that, if upheld, will overturn the foundations of our justice system by equating accusation with indictment, trail, and conviction and threaten the very basis of our republic by imperiling all forms of dissent. (Antiwar protestors are already accused of "encouraging our enemies." How far a leap is it from there to "supporting" and then to "being" "enemies?") The judges who agreed to this decision are a disgrace to their robes and a disgrace to justice.

Footnote: Erich Fromm had some relevant thoughts.

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