Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Such Other Matters As The President Considers Appropriate"

Wow. Holy Joe Lieberman and John McPOW have introduced legislation regarding terrorists, enemy combatants, and, to quote their bill, "unprivileged enemy belligerents." It's pretty amazing and, one would think, the sort of thing from which true conservatives would recoil like a .50 cal:

The provision that removes all discretionary limits to this secret determination of status is in the Criteria for Designation of Individuals as High-Value Detainees. That section creates an initial impression that such "determinations" are subject to the rule of law by laying out specific criteria, beginning with "(A) The potential threat the individual poses for an attack on civilians..." (B) the potential threat the individual poses to United States military personnel..." etc. But the final criterion (E) zooms to infinity: it is simply "Such other matters as the President considers appropriate. "

Thus any individual, whether a foreign national or a U.S. citizen, can be designated an "unprivileged enemy belligerent," forever denied access to civilian courts and subjected to indefinite detention "without criminal charge and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners" -- that is, forever -- on the basis of such other matters as the President considers appropriate.

Now, up to a point I'm okay with the idea that true terrorists might well deserve to be in a separate legal category, and that they should be subjected to smart, effective, and RELIABLE interrogations (which, as virtually all evidence shows, does NOT include torture in any form.) But it seems just a tiny bit strange, doesn't it, that two guys who have all but questioned the current president's loyalty are fine with giving him powers to arrest and detain indefinitely ANYONE he chooses, for ANY REASON AT ALL? With no legal recourse!!??

It gets worse, and even less coherent:
Paradoxically, while the President can set any criteria he chooses to determine the detainee's status, he can only overrule the final status determination if the Attorney General and Secretary of Defense disagree. Also paradoxically, once a captive"is captured" or "comes into custody" and "is suspected" of being or "may be" an "unprivileged enemy belligerent" -- note the passive voice and other grammatical constructions obscuring agency -- the President does not have the option of having the suspect tried in civilian court. If the AG and the SecDef are in agreement they are apparently accountable to no one.

Far be it from me to overstate something or to repeat myself. But there is, at minimum, a certain irony that all these right-wingers who claim to be the sole repositories of patriotism, the only true lovers of American (or, as Sarah has said, the only "real Americans") hold our legal system in such low esteem. Likewise, whereas terrorism is a real threat and vigilance and cooperation (of the sort that Obama has, in fact, engendered to an extent not seen in the previous administration) are needed, it strikes me as odd and not a little depressing that eighteen guys with box cutters have managed to accomplish such destruction of our formerly resilient country. To have suckered us into unnecessary war, have torn us apart internally, and have rendered us so frightened that we are willing to give up the essence of our democracy.

I'd hope the bill, as described, hasn't a chance of passing. Still, it's basically a codification of the yoobushleague view that the president can do any damn thing he wants. So, in the well rehearsed habit of abandoning the most basic of conservative principles, I'm also sure there will be signers-on aplenty. And claims of terrorist sympathy against all who object.

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