Sunday, 26 July 2009

quoting a quoted quote

"Preventive detention, at what cost?

Warrantless domestic spying, detention without trial, torture, and excessive secrecy raised concerns across the political spectrum and fueled recent change in the White House. But these policies remain equally noxious under the new administration, which entertains proposals beyond even its predecessors' wildest plans.
By Shahid Buttar, July 22, 2009

Spy vs. I

A family vacation over Independence Day offered a poignant reminder of why, over 30 years ago, my parents sought refuge in the U.S. Fleeing the racial hostility they encountered in Britain after escaping the brutality of the Indian Subcontinent's Partition, they found in rural Missouri economic opportunity, political freedom, and small town Midwestern hospitality. Today, the specter of preventive detention calls into question whether my parents' grandchildren will enjoy the same freedom.

Warrantless domestic spying, detention without trial, torture, and excessive secrecy raised concerns across the political spectrum and fueled recent change in the White House. These policies, however, remain equally noxious under the new administration, which currently entertains proposals beyond even its predecessors' wildest plans.

We should begin by removing the beltway spin. Whether called "preventive," "indefinite," or simply "prolonged," prevention detention schemes are essentially lawless, unconstitutional, and un-American. And whether established through an executive order or an act of Congress, they would undermine -- not enhance -- our national security.

At root, detention without trial threatens democracy. According to NYU law professor David Golove, "The struggle for constitutional liberty," wherever people have sought it, includes "a struggle against preventive detention." Our Founders did not champion the rule of law in a vacuum. They confronted threats, including arbitrary detention, and intended the Bill of Rights to end and prevent them.

The rights to Due Process, legal representation, and to examine one's accusers, witnesses and evidence are fundamental. Beyond mere technicalities, these procedural protections are necessary to protect the innocent and lend legitimacy to judicial decisions.

Benjamin Wittes and others propose limiting these rights and detaining individuals accused of being "dangerous," based on hearsay evidence. But they overlook the central problem: accusations are unreliable.

Courts admit evidence of actual events, rather than predictions or hearsay, precisely to exclude irrelevant or unreliable information. Torture, for instance, is notorious for yielding inaccurate intelligence and forcing false confessions. Equally unreliable are individuals who identify suspects in exchange for payment, such as tribesmen who captured many Guantanamo detainees, or ex-convicts hired by the FBI to infiltrate mosques across the country.

Our intelligence agencies, whose hearsay evidence would be admissable under some detention proposals, have proven their unreliability. Time and again, attempts to identify dangerous individuals have instead swept up innocent people, including U.S. citizens of all colors.

Most of Guantanamo Bay's hundreds of detainees have been either released or declared harmless. We have abducted law-abiding people from allied countries and outsourced their torture (Canadian Maher Arar); detained and smeared law-abiding Caucasian and Asian American citizens (attorney Brandon Mayfield and Chaplain James Yee); and tortured a U.S. citizen of Latino descent (Jose Padilla). In addition, government "watch lists" continue to cast unjustified suspicion on over a million law-abiding Americans.

Given the unreliability of intelligence sources, indefinite detention based on evidence inadmissible in federal courts would hardly enhance security. It would, however, undermine freedom and -- by removing checks on executive avarice and arbitrariness -- leave no one safe: under an administration hostile to dissent, an unpopular bumper sticker or dispute with a neighbor could land you in prison.

Even if hearsay evidence were reliable, the security benefits of preventive detention would be trivial. Individuals can be imprisoned by federal courts under existing laws for even providing humanitarian support to regions governed by militants -- let alone actually planning terrorist attacks. The only potential "threats" addressed by preventive detention, then, are individuals accused without reliable evidence.

Whom, exactly, would these individuals be? In both the distant and recent past, America has criminalized law-abiding people for their politics (through the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Palmer raids, COINTELPRO, and the Red Scare, for example) or race, ethnicity or religion (through NSEERS, border interrogations, and Operation Frontline, for example). By expanding this shameful list -- and by further eroding our international claims to defend the rule of law -- preventive detention would only undermine the security of law-abiding Americans and help our enemies in their efforts to recruit foot soldiers.

Our Founders crafted the Constitution over 200 years ago to balance strong government against individual rights. Their vision has served us well through the World Wars, periods far more dangerous than ours, and is fundamentally incompatible with proposed detention schemes. For the Constitution to survive today's "war on terror," we Americans who value freedom must once again raise our voices to defend it.

Shahid Buttar is a civil rights lawyer, non-profit leader, hip-hop & electronica MC, independent columnist, grassroots community organizer, singer and poet. Professionally, he leads the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, a national grassroots organization defending civil liberties eroded by the War on Terror. He also serves as co-Director of the Rule of Law Institute, a U.S.-based organization supporting international efforts to defend the Rule of Law against threats imposed by U.S. foreign policy.

quoted from source,

a friend of mine posted this article some time ago, and i had the opportunity of perusing it today. being that i am double quoting the source from his site, and a site that in turn quotes from the original source, i would like to briefly acknowledge that none of these are my words, and i have quoted them for the benefit of the reader.

i did leave a comment on my friend's page, as follows:

big brother is watching you. imo the extent of preventive detention far overshadows the infringement of privacy and undermining of security as portrayed by the author. the development of a more 'inorganic dictatorship' from the paranoia that stems from irrational need of control (irrational here being highly debatable) is something we've learned ... Read Morefrom history time and again (french revolution, WWII, even the meiji reformation). governments taking the proactive step in nipping problems in the bud is not something new, and neither is it undesirable, but when the regulation of such drastic measures becomes commonplace (as is the abuse of ISA laws seen in malaysia over the past few years), we should question where the line is drawn; what right does the governing body have to call itself a democracy if it breaches it's own preached values? hypocricy, thy name is ...

which i would have liked to extrapolate upon, but neither do i have the expertise nor the inclination to toss myself into a political-opinion fray. disregard the fact that the author writes as a muslim, or that the text is mouldable around the USA government (just as much as it is around any governing body you may chose, they all have their 'redeeming' factors). i know i did upon starting and finishing the text.

i'm not a big fan of political opinions, more of a bleachers guy who enjoys the show and would speak up from time to time if something interesting crops up (such as now) and i'm sure for those who have read orwell (specifically 1984, and animal farm to a lesser extent, although they address similar issues, to different extents and ends) you would be ashamed to pass by this article without comparing what's happening in real life to literature. it's not surprising to find such blatant similarities, since we've seen it all in history time and again (as per my caption in itallics above!); for those uninitiated, do find the time to at least read the summary of 1984 - the literature value i found personally enriching and stimulating, but the content, if only that would be what you would take away, is more than enough to rank the author amongst the best you've read (or not, in the case of you being one of those uninitiated). forgive me for my holier than thou air should it come across that way, i do not intend to sound pretentious having read a book some may have not - it is only because i would highly recommend such book, and would like to bring into light such compelling foresight into where we may end up in the near future; by all means, read the quoted text and skip my comments if this post is tldr - there is far more knowledge to gain from it than my ramblings.

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