Bush redux

May 30, 2009 at 1:40 am Leave a comment

As you know, I haven’t really been won over by Obama. I think he’s a magnificent orator (when he has a teleprompter) but I’ve been sitting back waiting to see how different he would be from Bush. Frankly, what I’ve seen so far has led me to think that Obama isn’t much different from his predecessor (case in point: Obama’s support of warrantless wiretapping, just like Bush – despite slamming the eavesdropping programme during his Prez campaign) . But it was Obama’s May 21st speech on Detainees and National Security that really took me aback. This speech outlined the contours of the Obama Administration’s approach to suspected terrorists.

Obama has eliminated the category of “unlawful enemy combatant”, which Bush had enshrined in the 2006 Military Commissions Act for the purposes of detaining suspected terrorists without due process. Good news you would think. But no: Obama has a new category – “prolonged detention”, which would detain suspected terrorists for a prolonged period of time, inside the US without trial.  So the United States will be holding alleged “prisoners of war” (ie suspected terrorists) who cannot be prosecuted for their past crimes but pose a future threat to national security. They cannot be released or transferred and since the war in Iraq could go on for years and years, just how long is “prolonged detention” going to turn out to be?  Does this mean that some people could die in prison for crimes they have yet to commit (if indeed they would be committed)? It would further mean that the right of habeas corpus would be denied if they cannot be prosecuted.

Now, I was fairly staggered when I read this speech. And so was Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) who has written to Obama and said:

“…..any system that permits the government to indefinitely detain individuals without charge or without a meaningful opportunity to have accusations against them adjudicated by an impartial arbiter violates basic American values and is likely unconstitutional…..such detention is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world.”

In his speech, Obama states: “That is why my Administration has begun to reshape these standards to ensure they are in line with the rule of law.” Possibly he’s forgotten that detaining individuals for future crimes they have yet to commit is not consistent with the rule of law, which holds individuals accountable for past crimes committed. The rule of law does not extend to the future – to crimes YET to be committed.  Preventive detention – this is really pushing the boundaries of law if you ask me. And I would agree with the ACLU when they say: “If they cannot be convicted, then you release them.That’s what it means to have a justice system.”

Okay, so I’m still waiting to see how the Prez of Hope and Change is really all that different from Bush. I’ll keep waiting in hope.

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Entry filed under: ACLU, Politics, United States. Tags: , .

At last! The Earth is hiring

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