Facts and myths about Obama's preventive detention proposal
Friday May 22, 2009 09:23 EDT
In the wake of Obama's speech yesterday, there are vast numbers of new converts who now support indefinite "preventive detention." It thus seems constructive to have as dispassionate and fact-based discussion as possible of the implications of "preventive detention" and Obama's related detention proposals (military commissions). I'll have a podcast discussion on this topic a little bit later today with the ACLU's Ben Wizner, which I'll add below, but until then, here are some facts and other points worth noting:
(1) What does "preventive detention" allow?
It's important to be clear about what "preventive detention" authorizes. It does not merely allow the U.S. Government to imprison people alleged to have committed Terrorist acts yet who are unable to be convicted in a civilian court proceeding. That class is merely a subset, perhaps a small subset, of who the Government can detain. Far more significant, "preventive detention" allows indefinite imprisonment not based on proven crimes or past violations of law, but of those deemed generally "dangerous" by the Government for various reasons (such as, as Obama put it yesterday, they "expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden" or "otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans"). That's what "preventive" means: imprisoning people because the Government claims they are likely to engage in violent acts in the future because they are alleged to be "combatants."
Once known, the details of the proposal could -- and likely will -- make this even more extreme by extending the "preventive detention" power beyond a handful of Guantanamo detainees to anyone, anywhere in the world, alleged to be a "combatant." After all, once you accept the rationale on which this proposal is based -- namely, that the U.S. Government must, in order to keep us safe, preventively detain "dangerous" people even when they can't prove they violated any laws -- there's no coherent reason whatsoever to limit that power to people already at Guantanamo, as opposed to indefinitely imprisoning with no trials all allegedly "dangerous" combatants, whether located in Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Western countries and even the U.S.
(2) Are defenders of Obama's proposals being consistent?
During the Bush years, it was common for Democrats to try to convince conservatives to oppose Bush's executive power expansions by asking them: "Do you really want these powers to be exercised by Hillary Clinton or some liberal President?"
Following that logic, for any Democrat/progressive/liberal/Obama supporter who wants to defend Obama's proposal of "preventive detention," shouldn't you first ask yourself three simple questions:
(a) what would I have said if George Bush and Dick Cheney advocated a law vesting them with the power to preventively imprison people indefinitely and with no charges?;
(b) when Bush and Cheney did preventively imprison large numbers of people, was I in favor of that or did I oppose it, and when right-wing groups such as Heritage Foundation were alone in urging a preventive detention law in 2004, did I support them?; and
(c) even if I'm comfortable with Obama having this new power because I trust him not to abuse it, am I comfortable with future Presidents -- including Republicans -- having the power of indefinite "preventive detention"?
(3) Questions for defenders of Obama's proposal:
There are many claims being made by defenders of Obama's proposals which seem quite contradictory and/or without any apparent basis, and I've been searching for a defender of those proposals to address these questions:
Bush supporters have long claimed -- and many Obama supporters are now insisting as well -- that there are hard-core terrorists who cannot be convicted in our civilian courts. For anyone making that claim, what is the basis for believing that? In the Bush era, the Government has repeatedly been able to convict alleged Al Qaeda and Taliban members in civilian courts, including several (Ali al-Marri, Jose Padilla, John Walker Lindh) who were tortured and others (Zacharais Moussaoui, Padilla) where evidence against them was obtained by extreme coercion. What convinced you to believe that genuine terrorists can't be convicted in our justice system?
For those asserting that there are dangerous people who have not yet been given any trial and who Obama can't possibly release, how do you know they are "dangerous" if they haven't been tried? Is the Government's accusation enough for you to assume it's true?
Above all: for those justifying Obama's use of military commissions by arguing that some terrorists can't be convicted in civilian courts because the evidence against them is "tainted" because it was obtained by Bush's torture, Obama himself claimed just yesterday that his military commissions also won't allow such evidence ("We will no longer permit the use of evidence -- as evidence statements that have been obtained using cruel, inhuman, or degrading interrogation methods"). How does our civilian court's refusal to consider evidence obtained by torture demonstrate the need for Obama's military commissions if, as Obama himself claims, Obama's military commissions also won't consider evidence obtained by torture?
Finally, don't virtually all progressives and Democrats argue that torture produces unreliable evidence? If it's really true (as Obama defenders claim) that the evidence we have against these detainees was obtained by torture and is therefore inadmissible in real courts, do you really think such unreliable evidence -- evidence we obtained by torture -- should be the basis for concluding that someone is so "dangerous" that they belong in prison indefinitely with no trial? If you don't trust evidence obtained by torture, why do you trust it to justify holding someone forever, with no trial, as "dangerous"?
My response to Obama's advocacy of a 'prolonged detention' policy ...
I just went down to the post office and re-registered as an independent (in California, a 'declined to state'); this law school graduate (non-practicing) WILL NOT be associated with a party whose top people would even consider such a thing - period.
This proves you don't have to directly listen to the Evil Overseers
There are people that listen to the Evil Overseers and the Evil Media. Articles like this tell us the narrative of the treason. It is like you don't look directly to a solar eclipse because you don't want to lose eyesight. It is best not to listen directly to the Evil Overseers and the Evil Media because it will burn out your ability to see.
This is all very reasoned and very well composed- Stephen Lendman couldn't do better.
The oligarchy rules. Oligarchy is treason per se.