Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Administrative Disappearance

Sometimes, the left inadvertently uses framing that makes the right drool with envy.

Dow concludes that the administration of U.S. President George W Bush has "exploited our national trauma to extend law enforcement authority, as the long-standing biases within the Justice Department against Muslims and Arabs became politically correct."

Bush administration policies of disappearing people into "administrative detention" are just an extension of the things FBI and others are already supposed to be doing.

This frame makes it seem that our law enforcement agencies are supposed to pick people up at random, hold them for days, weeks, or months with no legal representation, with no charges, and no trial; and that the Bush policies just allow more of the same.

Of course, the reality is that the US constitution has some very different views on how people are to be treated.

According to our Constitution
There are things called rights. It's illegal for the government to violate those rights. Here are some relevant to detention:

Article IV:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons ... against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Bush administration's policies violate this right - people are being seized unreasonably. Note: this doesn't say "arrested," it says "seized." It applies even outside of the context of law enforcement. It is as illegal for someone to unreasonably seize you for administrative reasons as it is to unreasonably seize you for law enforcement reasons.

Given how poorly the administrative cases hold up on those rare occasions that they ever come before a judge, I'm guessing that the oaths or affirmations being used for issuing warrants might also be suspect, but that's just speculation on my part:
What resulted? Not one of the 1,200 individuals detained, nor any of the 80,000 people fingerprinted, nor any of the 10,000 interviewed, have been charged with anything more than visa violations.

Now there's a record to be proud of: 0 crimes for 91,200 suspects. Even the Red Sox can do better than that!
Article V:

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

By denying trials, denying access to a lawyer, denying access to character witnesses, the Bushinistas are depriving people of liberty, and in some cases life and property, without due process of law (see article VI).
Article VI:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed ... and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

This spells it all out:

  • No detention without speedy public trial;

  • This means there MUST be a trial, the trial MUST happen soon after arrest, and the trial MUST be public - that means NO secret courts. The government cannot lock people up for random periods of time just for the heck of it.

  • Trial must be by impartial jury;

  • Note the word "impartial" - the jury can't be selected by the government to ensure the person will be found guilty. The jury must be made up of people who care only that the person will get a fair trial based on the evidence presented.

  • Trial must occur in the state in which the alleged crime occurred;

  • For example, if a Cuban immigrant overstayed his visa in Florida, he'd have to be tried in Florida, not Guantanamo.

  • The person must be told what crime he committed;

  • The FBI cannot barge into your house, pick you up, and drag you off without telling you what law you broke.

  • The person must be presented with the witnesses against him,

  • You must be able to confront your accuser, so you can understand who is accusing you and why. The reason for this is to enable you to figure out how to defend yourself.

  • The person must be allowed to find witnesses in his favor;

  • You must be able to get your own witnesses who may be able to defend you against the other side's witnesses.

  • The person must be given a lawyer.

  • You must be allowed to have a person who is a legal expert help you.

Not allowing a seized person any of ONE these rights is against the law, according to our constitution. The Bush regime hates those pesky rights. They would just as soon do without them, which is why they use innocent-sounding weasel words (like "administrative detention") to disguise what they're doing.
Article VIII:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

That means no torture. It means no stomping on people's bare feet. It means no terrifying people with dogs. It means no rape. It means no throwing prisoners against the wall, dragging them along the floor, denying them food or water, keeping them trapped in tiny stinky cells 24 hours a day for days on end. It means no beatings.

I often hear people say "Well that's the way things are in prison." as if that's an excuse. It's the same as the "But, all the kids are doing it!" excuse that didn't work in junior high school. It's against the law, no matter who's doing it. Period.
Article IX:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

This means that the constitution includes some, but not all of the rights available to people. Just because it's not spelled out, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Here's one I bet you might agree with: You can't be held indefinitely as a non-prisoner.

Picture This
You're eating your morning toast and someone knocks on the door. You open the door and some folks come in and start asking you questions. They grab stuff from your house, grab you, and bring you to a processing center. This center looks like a jail. People in it are kept in little jail-like cells. You're put into one of those cells. Have you or have you not been arrested? If you haven't been arrested, what would you call it? Kidnapping might fit, I suppose. But in any case, you probably don't think anyone should have the right to do that to you.

Better yet, you haven't been charged with, or even accused of, any crime. You may be beaten, raped, or otherwise "stressed." You may be let go in a few days, or maybe not. You may be transferred around from one place to another, without being allowed to contact your family or a lawyer. You may be deported to another country - a country where there's a pretty good chance you'll be brutally tortured or killed.

That scenario is what's currently called "administrative detention." In Central America and South Africa, it was called being "disappeared."

Anywhere in the world, no matter how friendly its name, it is an evil. It is wrong. It must not be allowed to continue. Not even if it's being done by "the good guys."


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