Photo: AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque, POOL
Our government is basically paralysed these days, with lawmakers repeatedly taking the country to the brink of shutdown or default just to score political points.And President Obama hasn’t been much help: All he seems to be able to do is encourage Congress to compromise–advice that Congress is only too happy to ignore.
But there’s one thing that everyone in our government agrees on:
It’s time to suspend our constitutional right to due process.
Specifically, it’s time to give the government the power to detain people indefinitely, without evidence, judge or jury, or trial.
According to the terms of the new National defence Authorization Act, which was drafted with bipartisan support and signed into law by President Obama, if someone in the government decides that someone is a Really Bad Person (a terrorist or friend of terrorists), well, then, that’s it–they can just lock ’em up and send ’em to Guantanamo.
No due process.
The reason this law is horrifying is not that terrorists deserve to be handled with kid gloves. They don’t. The reason it’s horrifying is that, without due process, it is too easy for the government to just declare someone a terrorist who isn’t actually a terrorist. It’s too easy, in other words, for government employees to do what everyone else does: Make mistakes.If you don’t think it’s possible for the government to mistakenly assume that someone is a terrorist who isn’t, read this story by Lakhdar Boumediene, who was just held as a terrorist by the U.S. government in Guantanamo for 7 and a half years. At Guantanamo, Boumediene says he was tortured for not telling his U.S. captors what they wanted to hear–that he was a terrorist. He was only eventually freed after his case went to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court ruled that it might be a good idea to ask the government to present the evidence that led it to believe that Boumediene was a terrorist (the government didn’t present any).
Everyone makes mistakes. That’s why due process is so important. That’s why the 5th Amendment to the Constitution is so important.
And that’s why it’s so appalling that our government, which can agree on nothing else, so quickly agreed to overturn it.
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