Monday, June 19, 2006

National Security

Various writers on the editorial page of our local paper have been having an ongoing discourse on how tightened security restrictions after 9/11 have affected people. It started with one letter writer asking anyone to point to a single restriction that has affected his or her life. A number of people responded with ways in which their lives have been changed. Most were abstract points, but then one editorial writer pointed out an item that I’ve seen discussed but not really emphasized. This discussion was on the enhanced ‘national security’ restrictions placed upon our court system.

One example was a recent lawsuit by somebody stating he was illegally incarcerated because the government thought he was a terrorist. After hearing secret testimony by the NSA and CIA the judge dismissed the lawsuit and refused to let it come to trial. The stated reason was that testimony in court would severely compromise national security. This individual was arrested overseas and tortured in one of those prisons run by governments that permit torture, if they even knew about it. Oh, right, we don’t support torture or ship people off to those places. Any reports of secret CIA flights or ‘renditioning’ are strictly false. This guy must have been dreaming, wandering around in a daze for the two years he was supposedly locked up, perhaps off having a romp with a girlfriend and not wanting to admit it to his wife.

I find this interesting, that our government can basically declare you a threat to national security, lock you up, perhaps ship you off to Guantanamo or a secret prison overseas, and do whatever they want to you. Oh, excuse me, our president says that the countries we ship people off to promise not to torture them, so he is sure that all these reports of torture are false and designed to embarrass the US. If you then get out (if you get out) and attempt to hold the government responsible for what they did you cannot get a court hearing because it would affect national security. Nice circle going there.

The author also cited several other court cases against people charged with terrorism, or supporting terrorism. In these trials the judge went into chambers with the prosecuting attorneys and NSA operatives, excluding the court reporter and defense attorneys. After returning to court in one case the judge found the defendant guilty based on this secret testimony, which was so sensitive to national security that the defense attorney was not even permitted to hear it. I find this fairly amazing, that somebody can be convicted on secret testimony that is impossible to refute, discuss, or even be available to the defense.

Boy, if you want to talk about a government that can do anything it wants, with absolutely no checks or balances, no control, no oversight, no exposure, this is it. Somebody can be arrested, and even found guilty of a crime without having evidence presented in open court all because of ‘NATIONAL SECURITY’. I can understand preventing testimony in open court, but not even letting a defense attorney hear what is being said, and convicting somebody on secret testimony? That sounds more like the secret police in old Russia or something out of a horror movie. Wow!

Now that's for people that come to trial. Should we even talk about the governments ability to declare a US citizen a terrorist, and lock them up without access to counsel, for as long as it wants to? Preventing an attorney from even speaking to the detainee, unable to present any kind of defense? What kind of constitution do we have, if even basic rights to counsel and court are denied?

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