Friday, September 09, 2005

Where the Constitution is buried

Court Rules U.S. Can Indefinitely Detain Citizens

It has not received the publicity it deserves, but this is huge story, both in and of itself and as a reminder of how important the looming Supreme Court confirmation hearings are.

A federal appeals court ruled today that the president can indefinitely detain a U.S. citizen captured on U.S. soil in the absence of criminal charges, holding that such authority is vital to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit came in the case of Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member who was arrested in Chicago in 2002 and designated an "enemy combatant" by President Bush. The government contends that Padilla trained at al Qaeda camps and was planning to blow up apartment buildings in the United States.

Padilla, a U.S. citizen, has been held without trial in a U.S. naval brig for more than three years, and his case triggered a legal battle with vast implications for civil liberties and the fight against terrorism.

Attorneys for Padilla and a host of civil liberties organizations blasted the detention as illegal and said it could lead to the military being allowed to hold anyone, from protesters to people who check out what the government considers the wrong books from the library.

Federal prosecutors asserted that Bush not only had the authority to order Padilla's detention but that such power is essential to preventing attacks. In its ruling today, the 4th Circuit overturned a lower court and came down squarely on the government's side.

There is no way to deny or sugarcoat this one -- when the head of the government can (through direct control of the military) hold citizens indefinitely and without charges, what you have is totalitarianism. A police state. Take your pick. But either way the Constitution becomes one of those "quaint" and obsolete niceties Alberto Gonzales talked about.

The government contends Padilla "trained at al Qaeda camps and was planning to blow up apartment buildings in the United States." Did he? Without formal charges and a trial, how will anyone ever find out? If they can lock him up beyond the reach of habeas corpus and the Bill of Rights, they can lock up any of us, for any reason or for no reason.

The Supreme Court could once be counted on to call bullshit on such outrages. If George Bush has his way, the courts will become his Greek chorus, and no one will risk so much as complaining about it ever again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is NOT the constitution that takes a direct hit and becomes irrelevant, it is the LAW or any concept of justice. GONE, just gone. But that's ok because it's all part of the plan. Not your plan, theirs. Not stupidty, not neglect, not real difference of opinion, just naked power. Don't ask why they are doing it, ask why shouldn't they! They got the power because you (collectively) didn't oppose it when you had the chance and now you don't have any chance. Even the rubble has stopped bouncing. Isn't the quiet peaceful?

12:20 PM  

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