Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Keyes on Padilla and Civil Liberties

Has the Bush headquarters seen this article? Keyes, in a July 17, 2002 article, says:

The case of "enemy combatant" and American citizen Jose Padilla is raising important issues beyond the challenge of frustrating the plots of terrorists. In a USA Today Gallup poll last week, 80 percent of Americans said they would give up some freedoms to gain security. This alarming sentiment, of course, has been the basis of the tyrant's bargain with the people from the beginning of human society. America was founded in large measure precisely to end such blackmail.

That's why we should pay close attention to how Jose Padilla is treated. He might very well be a terrorist, but he is certainly an American citizen. That means that he is entitled to a whole range of protections under law that we take for granted. These protections include the opportunity to defend oneself against government charges, and to have that defense conducted in a court of law, with a fair chance to state one's case before an impartial and independent judge – independent, that is, of the executive power that is bringing the charge.

... Mr. Padilla, we are told, is an "enemy combatant" in the judgment of President Bush. This judgment may well be true – indeed, seems quite likely. But imagine the following sequence of events. A president or other high official determines that a citizen is an "enemy combatant." Accordingly, that citizen is stripped of his rights, held incommunicado in the brig without legal counsel like the al-Qaida prisoners being held in Cuba, until the war ends. And, of course, the war on terror may never end, so he may stay there forever.