So, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the Canadian law today that allowed the government to indefinitely detain suspected terrorists. 9-0. Beautiful. I missed Canada a little today. No Patriot Act. No Military Commissions Act. No Guantanamo Bay. No Abu Ghraib. No Real ID act. No breaking people's fingers or drowning them over and over again in the name of "values". No extraordinary rendition. That is the one that kills me. Bush says "we do not torture". But it is well known that the US has sent some terror suspects to countries specifically to be tortured. This is not some "liberal" conspiracy. There are well known and documented cases of this "rendition". One case was Khaled El-Masri, a 42-year-old German citizen and father of five young children who was forcibly abducted while on holiday in Macedonia. He was detained incommunicado, beaten, drugged, and transported to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan, where he was subjected to torture. El-Masri was forbidden from contacting a lawyer or any member of his family. After several months of confinement in squalid conditions, he was abandoned on a hill in Albania with no explanation, never having been charged with a crime. Soon after El-Masri was flown to Afghanistan, CIA officers realized that they had abducted, detained, and interrogated an innocent man. George Tenet, the former director the CIA, was notified about the mistake, yet El-Masri remained in detention for two more months. Oops. I have said it before and I will say it again: the US I came to in 2000 is a far cry from the US today. Many around me do not see it. Like frogs in boiling water. And on days where I see Canada living up to the principles of a constitutional democracy instead of allowing an irrational fear to rule everything, I miss my home country. Speaking only for myself, I would rather take the chance of being killed by a terrorist than watching centuries of American constitutional law being butchered. My chances of dying of a heart attack or cancer or a raging moose are a hell of a lot better than a terrorist getting me. Yet Americans now allow the government to open their mail, monitor their phone calls and bank records, detain them for years without any hearing or Due Process, torture them and spy on them. Yet I feel so helpless. There are so many of you out there that want this. Hell, can't let the Arabs get us. So we will just gut what it means to be American while shoveling down Big Macs and smoking unfiltered Camels. We'll live forever if we just let Bush detain us. Search us. Spy on us. Torture us. Label us terrorists. Gag us. I have all the paperwork done to make Kadee a Canadian. I just haven't had the $100. Next paycheck. Just in case things get even more out of control here. Just in case.


Anonymous said…
It really is amazing to me that a group of people dedicated to spreading the gospel of freedom around the world are just fine with allowing government to remove the basic underpinnings of our democracy. Sure, the government has been allowed to curtail certain liberties in times of war, but this "war" has no end. It's like declaring "war" on crime or drugs...there is no conceivable way of winning such a war. We can only hope to, arguably, reduce the effects. Thus, the deprivation of liberties based on a "war" on terror have no end. Can you imagine allowing the government to exercise this policy of holding American citizens without trial to fight the war on drugs? That is preposterous. We'd have had droves of innocent people rotting in prisons for decades, with no end in sight. But, Americans will do nothing until they are directly affected, and then who will they cry and bitch to?
Amen. There will be no one to bitch to. The people of this country are going to get what they are asking for.
Bill said…
B: I will preface my comment by stating that I am a VERY proud protector of the United States Constitution. In fact, I am a criminal defense attorney. However, there is one issue you may have forgotten regarding the individuals enjoying our hospitality at Camp X-ray in Cuba: They are not entitled to, nor have any reasonable expectation of, protection under the United States Constitution. They are only entitled to the protection of the land in which they were arrested (probably Afghanistan or Iraq). You see, anyone legally in the United States is entitled to the protection of the Constitution. In fact, even people here illegally have been given protection under the United States Constitution. Further, United States Citizens in other countries may have some expectation to, and receive, protection under the Constitution. However, a non-resident of the United States, who takes up arms against the United States, should not have any expectation that he or she will receive protection under the United States Constitution. It follows that, if “they” came into our country and attempted a terrorist act here, they would be entitled to more protection. There was one example of which I am aware (and there a probably more of which I am not) of a person who was held without charge for an excessive period of time under the theory that he was a terrorist. I think he was accused of trying to build a dirty bomb and was seized at the Chicago Airport. The Supreme Court made short work of the matter, and he was charged, and proceeded to be processed appropriately. Incidentally, the charge was far less than the dirty bomb conspiracy theory. His holding before being charged was unacceptable. That being said, I can find no reasonable ground that the detainees in Cuba can believe that they should be treated like Americans or residents of the United States, as they are neither. Also the Geneva Convention does not apply to the detainees as they were not wearing uniforms when they were arrested. Nevertheless, at the VERY LEAST, they can be detained until the end of the hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Likewise, I am not overly concerned about the about the warrantless eaves dropping on telephone communication between United States residents and individuals out of the country, WHEN there is probable cause to believe that the out of country individual is taking up arms against the United States. After all, despite what anonymous said, we are at war.
I am much more troubled by the erosion of the protection of citizens or residents under the Fourth Amendment. Why is it that my briefcase is free from search by the police when I am walking down the street, but is subject to the search the moment I get in my car? I have come to the conclusion that we have no longer any expectation of being free from unreasonable search or seizure, nor are we secure in our homes, with our papers or effects. That is truly sad. It is the result of overzealous prosecutors who are not willing to put any type of check on police, and judges, while perhaps claiming to be conservative, are actually radically rewriting the Constitution, and depriving us of our rights. That is what we can, and must, fight against. Every Day.
Anonymous said…
Distinguish, then, this war and the war on crime or drugs. The answer is there isn't such a distinction. In particular, the war on drugs, which has been described as adverse to our nation as a whole. Should we have permitted war time encroachment on our liberties for the war on drugs? Sometimes, the "war" is so indeterminate in length of time and the perceived antagonists that it becomes a proxy for indefinite limitations on our freedoms. If we had done so for the "war on drugs", most people under 40 would scarcely remember what freedom really is.
Clark Kent said…
I like the courage of "Bill", who writes all that garbage about the defence his freedoms, but is not man enough to sustain his principles by signing his tirade with his real name!!!
Following his "principles" neither will I!
Holy crap Bill. There is a lot to respond to but I will make two points. First, saying that the US Constitution only applies to US soil so the US can torture or abuse anywhere they want may be technically true. But doesn't it beg the real question? Why is the US engaged in these tactics? In the long term it only makes matters worse when the US cannot hold its moral head up high in regards to other nations who abuse human rights. Second, I am shocked, SHOCKED, at your characterization of the Jose Padilla case. Wow. That is one of the most frightening cases ever. Mr. Padilla was a US citizen. Arrested on US soil. Held for YEARS without charges, access to a lawyer or any Due Process. Years later when the Supreme COurt made the government do something, the government did in fact charge Mr. Padilla. But, two interesting facts. First, he was NEVER charged with anything terrorist related, despite having been held for years on those allegations. Second, he apparently went nuts during his detention and is now incomptent to stand trial. Remember, he was held in a windowless navy brig for years without any access to the outside world based on mere allegation and conjecture, which turned out to have so little substance that the government could not even formally charge him with those allegations. The Jose Padilla case is very frightening.
Bill said…
First to address anonymous, the difference between the war on crime, or the war on drugs and the current war, which is sometimes referred to as the war on terror: How about the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq? The current war was authorized by congress and we have a large number of troops over seas. The war on crime and war on drugs weren’t authorized by Congress and we did not send troops overseas. (I believe that we sent a very few troops down to Central/South America to help train. But mostly, we sent money.)
Second, to address B’s concerns: The Jose Padilla case was unacceptable, specifically because he was held without being charged, after being arrested on US soil. Our Constitution does not allow that. My hope is that it will not happen again, now that the Supreme Court has addressed the issue. Maybe I am too naive. I do not believe that we have a statute authorizing the detaining of alleged terrorists on US soil, for prolonged periods of time, with being charged. I am pleased that the Canadian Supreme Court has struck down the Canadian statute. I don’t know if our Supreme Court would be so brave. In the meantime, I plan to do my part to prevent it happening to my clients.
Anonymous said…
Bill, your distinction seems to be based on whether Congress has authorized war or not. Congress did not declare war in Korea or in Vietnam, but it would be a stretch indeed to fail to classifiy those as wars. Is it the troops on the ground? Well, we did invade Panama (my unit in fact) specifically in response to Noriega's relationship with drug traffickers (not freedom). He was eventually held in a U.S. court to stand trial. Now, yes, congress did not specifically shout "War!" in that instance either, but a conflict nevertheless occurred. Soldiers were deployed.

My point is that in this particular war, like the war on drugs, there is no Army to distinguish combatants and non-combatants (hence the uncomfortably fuzzy area when dealing with "detainees"), no leaders to kill or capture, no capitols to seize. Instead, like the war on drugs, we have something more akin to a criminal syndicate. Its aims are immaterial to the extent that the disparate and loosely connected antagonists for drugs and terror intend to commit criminal acts within our borders. Since the war on drugs could scarcely be considered a war for the purposes of depriving us of our liberties, neither should the current war on terror.
bill said…
I do agree that there are problems with the current war being called a “war on terror” for the reasons you state. However, the war on drugs, for example, is actually a criminal prosecution within our borders. The extra-border forays, such as you units invading Panama, are only loosely connected to the war on drugs. It seems that we were trying to go to the “source” of the drugs in your invasions scenario, but largely the war on drugs was police, DEA and prosecutors within our country. When I am refer to the war we are currently involved in, I am speaking specifically of our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, this may expand to other Middle East countries, such as Iran and Syria (not by way of limitation). However, I do not believe that the current war is an amorphous war on terror like our war on drugs. But a war does take a long time. Certainly we should have a large number troops in Iraq for a very, very long time. After all, we had troops in Germany and Japan for a very long time after World War II. In fact, as I am sure you are aware, we still have troops in Germany and Japan. But the “war” isn’t still going on in Germany and Japan. We were able to draw down troops after the unconditional surrender, and leave smaller forces over time. At first the troops were policing, etc. and helping to rebuild Europe. Likewise, we need to have enough troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to police and rebuild. Personally, I don’t believe we have enough there now. In fact, I don’t feel that we should have ever started limiting the number of troops we originally had in Iraq. However, our citizens seems to have an attention span of a goldfish, and are not willing to deal with and work toward long term goals. Once Iraq, and the surrounding region, if necessary, has been stabilized, then we can reduce the number of troops, and start acting as if we are not at war. But the overall war on terror, as talking heads call it, is too broad to consider a traditional war, so as to restrain our liberties. However, like I said earlier, our liberties have been slowly eroded since the Constitution was written. The police, prosecutors and even unscrupulous judges seem to believe that it is more important to convict a single individual (particularly drug dealers) than to uphold the Constitution and protect the freedom for the rest of us. As a completely unrelated comment to the original post, instead of excluding evidence when police, et al., violate the constitution, how about punishing them personally for their wrong doing. If the police went to jail and/or paid the victims of their “crimes,” then they would stop violating the Constitution.
Chia said…

First, the constitution does apply to the United States' Activities in Guantanamo Bay. The constitution is the charter of the US Government. The US Government IS the constitution. It regulates what the government can do. Without a constitution, the government is a meaningless collection of bodies and equipment. Do you believe that the men and women in US Army uniforms, on land leased by the United States, following orders that trickle down from the President, and spending the US Treasury's money, are not acting _as_ the United States?

Do you think that the keeping of slaves by the US government would be permissible, so long as they did it overseas?

And as to common article 3, you're right that many of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions only apply to "legal" combatants who wear uniforms etc. Common Article 3 (called "common" because it's in all four Geneva conventions) simply refers to "Persons taking no active part in the hostilities." It specifically says that includes people who were taking active part in the hostilities but aren't doing so right now. In other words, Common Article 3 isn't about them, it's about us. It's about what kind of people we are, and how we treat our captives and subject populations. And it says that at a minimum, we will not:

1) Physically hurt them
2) Pass sentences against them except by a regularly-constituted court "affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."
3) Subject them to inhuman and degrading treatment.

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