Thursday, September 23, 2004

An Admission of Failure


The Justice Department has agreed to release Yaser Hamdi, whom it held for more than two years in solitary confinement, to return to Saudi Arabia. Under the terms of the agreement, Hamdi will surrender his U.S. citizenship and will agree to report on any terrorist activities he discovers to the local authorities.

This is little more than a face saving maneuver. For two years the Justice Department insisted that this man was dangerous and could not be released or he would once again join the forces of terrorism against the United States. It refused to allow Hamdi a hearing to contest its assertions. It held him in solitary confinement and refused him access to a lawyer until very recently, repeatedly insisting that any communication with the man would jeopardize national security. When the Supreme Court ordered a hearing, the Justice Department, rather than allowing its assertions to be tested before an impartial arbiter, chose to save embarrassment and released Hamdi. It now appears that Hamdi posed no threat, just like the 5000 other persons John Ashcroft detained in the wake of 9/11. Ashcroft thumped his chest and insisted that he was keeping our country safe. What he was really doing, it turns out, was engaging in demagoguery.

Hamdi's arrest and detention was not a victory in the War on Terror, as the Bush Administration insisted. Far from it: The Bush Administration mangled our Constitution and defied the rule of law. This was an embarrassment for our country. It was a defeat for our valued way of life. The Bush Administration has loudly proclaimed that giving it unchecked authority to arrest and detain is the surest way to victory in the War on Terror. We may say of the government's policies what Justice Hugo Black once said of another dubious denial of civil liberties: "Another such victory and I am undone."


I cannot agree enough with the assumption that Hamdi's release spells a lack even of enough evidence to muster a show of a trial...but if Hugo Black saw this one, he'd have a heart attack...Beauharnais was a propaganda case, this kind of institutional and secret suspension of an individual's most basic freedoms is considerably more effective...

Seems to me 4,999 more lawsuits are needed...but Hamdi was the lucky one, with family able to pay attention to his circumstance. How do the other thousands even get counsel? Or a hearing? And if there's no way, is there any effect to the Hamdi ruling besides this publicity stunt? How sad...

If the US can't charge this man with a crime, let him free, I say. If he's a terrorist, he won't avoid any of the restricted countries anyhow. Others would argue that he and others are prisoners of war.

Check out what I wrote on my blog today about Bush and Allawi.


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