Thursday, May 06, 2010


Terrorists are so trying

Of course, now that an arrest has been made for the Times Square bombing attempt, the idiots conservatives idiots conservatives in congress are falling over themselves arguing about how the suspect’s civil rights should be curtailed. We’re not surprised, and we’ve seen this before.

The handling of Mr. Shahzad touched off the same sort of argument that followed the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a passenger jet bound for Detroit. Some Republicans urged the Obama administration to interrogate Mr. Shahzad without affording him Miranda rights and to classify him as an enemy combatant, which would allow authorities to detain him indefinitely. But Democrats said his quick arrest and his reported confession showed the system can respond to threats of terrorism without resorting to extraordinary tactics.

What should we do with Faisal Shahzad? According to various folks, we should...

  1. ...deny him his rights to remain silent and to be represented by an attorney — these are the “Miranda rights”, which are actually guaranteed by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
  2. ...classify him as an “enemy combatant”, which changes a lot of rules about his handling.
  3. ...make him talk with “harsh” interrogation. This seems singularly unnecessary; all reports are that he’s talking all we want him to as it is.
  4. ...try him in a military tribunal, definitely not as a civilian.
  5. ...revoke his citizenship. This one comes from the delightful Joe Lieberman, who says this about it:
    It’s time for us to look at whether we want to amend that law to apply it to American citizens who choose to become affiliated with foreign terrorist organizations, whether they should not also be deprived automatically of their citizenship and therefore be deprived of rights that come with that citizenship when they are apprehended and charged with a terrorist act.

All this, of course, before he is convicted of anything.

Allow me to remind people that presumption of innocence doesn’t only apply when white Christians are accused of embezzlement and insider trading. It applies also to black people accused of drug possession, Latinos charged with burglary, and, oh yes, Muslims charged with attempted bombing.

Christopher Bond, a Republican senator from Missouri, has this to say:

We’ve got to be far less interested in protecting the privacy rights of these terrorists than in collecting information that may lead us to details of broader schemes to carry out attacks in the United States,

A reminder, Senator Bond: we’re not talking about minor “privacy rights”, here. These are basic rights to fair and due process, guaranteed to every U.S. citizen who’s accused of a crime. Every indication at this point is that he’s guilty of at least part of the plot, here. But he has not yet been convicted. This is important.

It’s very easy to say that the probable cause is enough to whisk him away and leave his rights behind, but think carefully about where that leads us — and where it leaves you. What happens when someone falsely accuses you of a terrorist act? Would you be ready to give up your rights because, after all, we can’t allow terrorists an opportunity to slip through the system?

Don’t think it couldn’t happen to you. You’re protected by the civil rights you’re assured by the constitution and its amendments, and by the interpretations made by the Supreme Court. Without those protections, you’re vulnerable — you’re only safe until the moment you’re accused.

This is an ideal time to show that those protections work the way they’re intended to, and that we can work within the system and still hold criminals, even those we’ve labelled as “terrorists”, accountable for their actions. Damn, even Glenn Beck agrees with that, Senators.

Update, 15:30 — Here’s today’s New York Times editorial on the same thing.


Ray said...

Apart from the horrendous aftermath that could have resulted, this is a fascinating case. It will be very interesting to learn what his motivation was, since he doesn't seem to fit any of the usual profile characteristics.

As for the Republican response, I'm quite sure you are not in the least surprised. These people are simply beneath contempt.

It occurs to me that there should be a full investigation of Lieberman - after all, the suspect was a resident of his state, so he must bear responsibility for allowing such a thing to happen. Yes... I know, I was being sarcastic, but it's about the same level of rationality as these people appear to exhibit.

Brent said...

It is interesting that some senators are hot to take away citizenship rights from terror suspects, but are upset about a proposal to deny terrorist suspects the ability to buy guns:

"None of us wants a terrorist to be able to purchase a gun, but neither should we want to infringe upon a Constitutional right of law-abiding Americans"

Barry Leiba said...

Yes, the gun thing is already written and queued up for tomorrow's blog. :-) Thanks for providing the segue.