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ZGram - 3/24/2004 - "Terror War's legal cost"

zgrams at zgrams.zundelsite.org
Wed Mar 24 16:21:36 EST 2004

Zgram - Where Truth is Destiny:  Now more than ever!

March 24, 2004

Good Morning from the Zundelsite:

This column ought to run in every American paper!


March 24, 2004
Terror War's Legal Cost

by Paul Craig Roberts
The Bush administration believes that habeas corpus is a luxury that 
the US cannot afford in its war against terror.

Habeas corpus is the legal principle that is the foundation of 
Anglo-American freedom. It prevents the government from picking up a 
person and holding him indefinitely without charge.

Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler were not constrained by habeas corpus. 
They were able to declare millions of people "enemies" and send them 
off to death camps.

People were declared enemies because of their class and race, or 
simply because someone with the power to put their name on a list did 
not like them or coveted their wife or property.

In the Soviet Union many people disappeared in "street sweeps" 
conducted by secret police under pressure to show results by 
arresting more "enemies."

The Bush administration's attempt to legally suspend habeas corpus in 
The Patriot Act was rebuffed by House Judiciary Committee chairman 
James Sensenbrenner. Now the Department of Justice (sic) and the 
Department of Defense are trying to assert the power to suspend 
habeas corpus by bureaucratic decree.

The Bush administration claims the power to declare suspected 
terrorists "enemy combatants" and to hold them indefinitely without 
bringing charges, presenting evidence or permitting suspects contact 
with attorneys or any outside persons. The US Department of Justice 
(sic) recently told the US Supreme Court that "the Court owes the 
executive branch great deference in matters of national security and 
military affairs."

In other words, "buzz off and leave terrorism to us."

Harvey Silverglate, a noted civil libertarian, recently explained in 
the Boston Phoenix (March 6) that suspension of habeas corpus leaves 
a suspect without hope and permits prosecutors to coerce guilty pleas 
regardless of guilt.

Silverglate points out that zeal in pursuing results in the war on 
terror is creating a "Darkness at Noon" legal system in the US. 
Suspects who can be coerced into making guilty pleas are given a 
public show trial. Recalcitrants are declared to be "enemy 
combatants" and shipped off to Guantanamo or held offshore on ships 
outside the reach of the legal system. Even US citizens are being 
dealt with in this way.

Show trials have great propaganda value for the government's "war on 
terror," while the public never learns the fate of those dealt with 
administratively in secret.

The Bush administration's claim to the right to conduct its war on 
terror outside the framework of US law is before the Supreme Court. 
If the Court fails to preserve habeas corpus, the ancient right 
dating to the Magna Carta in 1215 will be vitiated. In Silverglate's 
words, "Tyranny will be clothed in the garments of legitimacy."

There is more than one legal road to tyranny, and prosecutors and 
police are making sure all roads to tyranny are open. On March 22 the 
Supreme Court argued a case that will determine whether Americans 
still have the right to remain silent. The Supreme Court requires 
police to read your Miranda rights to you, but if you choose to 
remain silent, Nevada prosecutors will indict you for "obstructing an 

Nevada rancher Dudley Hiibel was approached by a policeman demanding 
his identification papers. Hiibel asked why. Not receiving much of an 
explanation, he said that he didn't want to talk. This is the case 
now before the Court. Watch for the ruling in May or June.

Coercion has replaced due process and legal rights. The public's fear 
of crime and terrorism is permitting police and prosecutors to escape 
their leashes. Their jobs are budget-driven and results-oriented. The 
more power they grab, the easier their jobs. The more high profile 
cases they prosecute, the greater the naïve public's confidence in 
"law and order." Silverglate points out that in the recent Detroit 
terrorist case, the government withheld exculpatory evidence that 
indicated that the testimony against the defendants was false.

Prosecutors will willingly trade the public results in the terror war 
for Americans' traditional legal rights. If Americans make this 
Faustian bargain, they will discover that their rights are forfeit as 
well as those of terrorist suspects.

American prisons are full of wrongfully convicted people. Prosecutors 
fight DNA testing of prisoners who claim innocence and resist even 
the release of people whose innocence has been established.

One reason is their fear of restitution. If innocent people are 
released, their claims would put a different light on "law and order" 
prosecutors, whose policy of conviction at all costs would be 
perceived as expensive to taxpayers.

British Home Secretary David Blunkett has hit on a way around the 
restitution dilemma. He has instituted a policy of charging Britain's 
wrongfully convicted room and board for the time they spent 
freeloading in prison.

The Sunday Herald (March 14) reports four cases of wrongfully 
convicted people - including some who were intentionally framed by 
the police - who were charged enormous sums for the years that they 
were wrongfully imprisoned. One had his compensation seized and was 
charged interest on the money paid to him at 23%!

The British are worried that their entry into the European Union will 
cost them the fabled legal protections that William Blackstone called 
the glory of England. But the British, like the Americans, have 
already lost those protections.

The pendulum has swung away from the rule of law. Arbitrary 
government power has made a comeback.


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