The Bush Administration: Guarding your freedom and security.
Since Tuesday,the Bush administration has been refusing federal court orders to turn over documents on the interrogation of a United States citizen that the Bush administration is holding as an
Yaser Esam Hamdi was one of two
American Taliban who were taken prisoner by Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan. He is currently locked in a Navy brig in Norfolk, Virginia without charges and without access to counsel during interrogations. Hamdi’s attoney has asked U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar to release Hamdi or at least provide him with access to counsel. Judge Doumar ordered the government to give Hamdi unrestricted access to counsel, but his decision was stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and remanded to Doumar, which advised him to hear more facts about the case before making a ruling.
The Ashcroft Department of Justice has taken the position that the federal courts have no authority to review the Executive’s determinations of who is and is not an enemy combatant. Thus, it has simply refused the judge’s order to hand over additional documents pertaining to Hamdi’s case.
I hope I don’t need to point out how dangerous a precedent it would set to allow the administration to unilaterally pick and choose whose civil liberties in wants to protect. But just for the sake of argument, let’s look at what’s happening here.
- The Department of Justice and Department of Defense have detained three men who have been accused of attacking the United States: John Walker Lindh, Abdullah al-Mujahir (formerly José Padilla), and Hamdi.
- One — Walker Lindh — was tried in open court according to Constitutional protections of civil liberties. Two — al-Mujahir and Hamdi — continue to rot in military prisons with no charges filed and with no access to counsel. The government has decided that these two will be test cases for their claimed war powers. Somehow it just happened to be the case that the government chose to take it out on the Puerto Rican gang-banger from Chicago and the Saudi Arabian-American, but not the rich white kid from Marin County.
- The Executive says that Hamdi is an
enemy combatanton the basis of a two-page affadavit from a Defense Department adviser which gives a brief outline of Hamdi’s alleged actions and says he’s an enemy combatant.
- The Executive claims that his designation as an
enemy combatantgives them the authority to hold him forever without charges and without access to counsel.
- The Executive claims that federal courts have no power to review their decisions on this matter, and has refused to respect a court order to supply further documents.
So currently the administration is acting in brach of a court order and asserting its right to unilaterally designate anyone that it wants to to have no civil liberties protections whatsoever in the courts. As if deliberately going for perverse irony, the administration is basing its claims from the doctrine of the separation of powers, as if the Executive’s authority over the conduct of war gave it the right to suspend court proceedings whenever it says there’s war business going on. We’ll also simply note in passing that Congress has not actually declared any war in the first place.
There is a word for a system of government where the Executive arrogates the powers of life and death on the basis of the unilateral say-so – the dictates – of no-one other than itself. The word for that system is dictatorship. What’s scary to me is the complete arrogance with which they are proceeding, as if they feel completely comfortable in telling the courts to go fuck themselves, as if they no longer feel that there’s any point in even pretending to be accountable to the people or to the rule of law.
We have to make them uncomfortable and accountable. If the administration continues to refuse the court’s orders, President Bush should be impeached. There is no room to tolerate these kind of abuses. Regardless of what Bush, Ashcroft, or Rumsfeld intends to do with the powers that they are claiming they have, it should be obvious that it would establish a terrifying and intolerable precedent.
Write a letter to the President demanding that the administration comply with the court orders. Write a letter to your Representative and Senators urging them to call the Bush administration to task. Write a letter or Op-Ed to your local newspaper asking how dare the Bush administration ignore basic civil liberties and the separation of powers. They think they can slip this one by while we aren’t looking, but we have to let them know that we’re not going to take it.