Thursday, September 28, 2006

Welcome to the Gulag

One of the cool things about America, as compared to a number of repressive governments, has been our legal system. You get arrested, you get tried within a reasonable period of time. Coerced testimony (torture) is not allowed as evidence and you get to hear all the evidence against you so your lawyer can offer an informed defense. Not so in other countries where you can be incarcerated for decades and never see the inside of a court room. And should you be 'lucky' enough to be tried, the evidence is what they beat out of you over the course of the preceeding years. Verdict: Guilty. No appeal and a bullet in the brain (if you're lucky).

Please note the 'has been' in the first sentence. America is about to jettison one of the strongest beacons of light in this dark world and take a step closer to becoming like our enemies. Our Congress is in the process of passing a bill that will allow the President to declare any American citizen an "illegal enemy combatant". You can be arrested and held WITHOUT A TRIAL for as long as the government wishes.

If that trial does roll around, they can use evidence even if they pulled it from you or others using torture. They have the right to withhold evidence from your lawyer if they deem it top secret. You'll just be guilty.

But surely I'll have the right to challenge these conditions, you think. No. You will lose your fundamental right to habeas corpus if you're imprisoned in a military prison.

Chillingly, the courts will have NO RIGHT to review this new system, except verdicts made by military tribunals.

So, you ask, what does this mean to you?

This means that some day a bunch of government folks can show up on your doorstep and you, your mother, your teenage son, daughter, whomever, can be handcuffed and thrown into prison because someone lied about you or gave false information under torture. The Feds can just get you confused with someone else (it's happened). You or your loved ones may never get a trial. Basic human rights do not apply. They can be 'coerced' into giving testiomony using techniques that Torquemada would envy. They will simply be GONE because the government has deemed them an 'illegal enemy combatant'. And if they ever get free, the law would prohibit them from "suing the US government for torture or mistreatment."

Am I being overly dramatic? No. This power is breathtaking in its scope. It was bad enough we deny the prisoners in Cuba (and elsewhere) their right to a fair trial.

Now they can come for you. And it's all legal.

Welcome to the New America.

For more information on the scope of this bill:
New York Times Editorial 9/28
(for the latest changes to the bill, which only grows worse by the hour)

First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left
to speak up for me.

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