Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Indefinite Detention

This is not a good thing.

House and Senate negotiators late Monday agreed to a sweeping $662 billion defense bill that requires military custody for terrorism suspects linked to al-Qaida, including those captured within the U.S., and indefinite detention without trial for some suspects.

President Barack Obama and his national security team had appealed to lawmakers for last-minute changes to the bill to give the executive branch greater flexibility on whether to treat suspected terrorists as prisoners of war or criminals. Facing a White House veto threat, leaders of the Armed Services Committees said they had added language on national security waivers and other slight revisions that they hoped would ensure administration support.

I don’t care who is president. He or she could be clear of eye and pure of motive, but this kind of sweeping power does not belong in the hands of anyone for any reason in a country that is supposed to be governed by the rule of law and a Constitution that plainly and succinctly says that suspects are to be given due process and a speedy trial.

Our history has plenty of examples where exceptions were made to the law, including during the Civil War and both World Wars. They were shameful blots then, and the passage of time doesn’t make them any less so. In fact, it makes them look worse. No one who has any respect for the law and justice can look at the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II with anything but a cringe, and the parallels between the demonization of those citizens and Muslims or “un-American” looking people now is obvious. And it’s spreading beyond terrorism suspects.

It’s supposed to be “We The People,” not “Us versus Them,” especially when Them is Us.