Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Becoming the Enemy: The American Police State

Here's what happens in a society where habeas corpus is dead and journalists are oppressed:

An Egyptian court has sentenced a blogger to four years' prison for insulting Islam and the president.
Abdel Kareem Soliman's trial was the first time that a blogger had been prosecuted in Egypt.

He had used his web log to criticise the country's top Islamic institution, al-Azhar university and President Hosni Mubarak, whom he called a dictator.

Think it couldn't happen here? Think again—it has happened, and it is happening.

''For the first time in American history, the executive branch claims authority under the Constitution to set aside laws permanently -- including prohibitions on torture and warrantless eavesdropping on Americans. A frightening idea decisively rejected at America's birth -- that a president, like a king, can do no wrong -- has reemerged to justify torture and indefinite presidential detention.''

Undermining checks and balances here at home and acting unilaterally abroad have made us less safe, said Mr. Schwarz. Some of the actions the U.S. has taken ''have so hurt our reputation,'' he said, ''that Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay have become in many eyes more the symbol of America than the Statue of Liberty.''

AI tells the story of a Gitmo detainee who has been denied the protections of habeas corpus.

Amnesty International is deeply troubled by yesterday’s ruling by a federal judge dismissing Guantánamo detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan’s habeas corpus petition, on the grounds that the Military Commissions Act, signed into law by President Bush on 17 October, strips the federal courts of jurisdiction to consider such appeals.

The right of all detainees to challenge the lawfulness of their detention is among the most fundamental principles of international law. That any legislature or any judge anywhere should countenance such stripping of this basic protection against arbitrary detention, secret custody, torture and other ill-treatment is shocking and must be challenged.

A related police state tactic is to employ journalists as government spies, and imprison those who don't play along. Josh Wolf is just the tip of the iceberg here, and there is every indication that these two trends—killing habeas corpus and imprisoning non-compliant bloggers and journalists (Wolf couldn't even get a holiday furlough—drug dealers get better treatment) will coalesce in a nexus of tyranny that will mark the end of this nation's experiment in democracy.

It is time again to demand that Congress stop its circle-jerk of complaining, fighting, walking on eggs, and dilatory campaigning, and get to work in deadly earnest—as if the most dire constitutional crisis in this nation's history were happening right now. Because it is.

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