Jefferson's democracy

Franklin Jefferson's thoughts on the world

Friday, November 10, 2006

In our name

A couple of days ago I posted a note here expressing my distaste for a government that argued that a political prisoner shouldn't be able to talk to a lawyer because he might tell the lawyer what techniques were used to question him.

Much to my amazement, I've heard from some people who seem to think that this is ok. We shouldn't worry if the government says that some people who have been picked up by the CIA and questioned for three years in secret should be prevented from ever talking to a lawyer, since they might "disclose the techniques used to question them."

(the previous post had links to the original story, among them this one:

The prisoner under discussion, Khan, was picked up in Pakistan along with his brother, wife, and one-year-old son. The others were released without being charged, and for the last three years, they have been told that he would be released "soon" as long as they didn't complain:

"Periodically, he [the brother] said, people who identified themselves as Pakistani officials contacted Mohammad Khan and assured him that his brother would soon be released and that they should not contact a lawyer or speak to the media. "We had no way of knowing who had him or where he was," his brother said from his home outside Baltimore, Maryland. He said they complied with the requests because they believed anything else could delay his brother's release."

Right here I'm already not happy. So the CIA claimed to be Pakistani officials, and told this guy that his brother might be killed if he contacted a lawyer or contacted the media. I don't like intimidation and extortion anyway, and a "free press" isn't quite exactly free if people are threatened by the CIA if they talk to the press.

Once the government has affirmed the right to take prisoners secretly, keep them for years without charges, and deny them the right to talk to a lawyer, or anybody else (they don't even get the traditional one phone call), why do you think that this power will be used only on guilty people, exactly, and never used, say, to cover up the fact that they abducted and tortured the wrong guy?

I don't trust the government to take people to secret jails and question them for three years. I don't want to give the government secret powers with no accountability.

We should live by the principles of freedom, justice, democracy, free speech, and the rule of law; we should serve as an example to the world, and I mean a good example here, not an example of the things we tell the rest of the world they shouldn't do. We believe in fair trials, not in putting people in prison for years with no trial and no charges. We should not let our fears scare us into giving away our liberties. We should not be sure that that if we give secret branches of the government unrestricted power, that this power will never be used on political opposition or innocent civilians.

I don't agree that a prisoner should be held incommunicado, with no right to ever talk to a lawyer, simply because he might disclose the methods used to question him. Actually, I think we ought to know the methods used to question prisoners. These methods are being used in our name, and I want to know what is being done in my name.

This is really an absolute; you can't be a libertarian of any kind ("neo" or other) and still accept secret prisons, people being taken away and held without being charged, and "questioning" of prisoners by techniques that cannot be disclosed and with no accountability. Libertarians use words like "Soviet" and "Fascist" to describe these kinds of actions, and the words are not less appropriate when the secret police are using Fascist techniques "for our own protection." Actually, that's just what the Fascists said.

I subscribe to the principles of the United States of America, that means freedom, decency, and we don't torture people and we don't have secret police or secret prisons or political prisoners who are held without trial. I do not want people violating every single one of my principles and then tell me that they're doing it for my own good because "they're useful to us as prisoners."

I don't want secret prisons, secret police, or suspension of civil liberty as the price of "using oil."

The word "liberty" is at the root of the word "libertarian"

For the argument "Jihadis don't have civil liberties, and don't want civil liberties."

We're not them; we don't want to be them; we don't want to be like them; and most particularly, we don't want to become like them, in the name of defeating them.

We're Americans. We believe in liberty and justice. This is what America is about.


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