Thursday, February 01, 2007

Enemy Combatants

I have no right to an attorney...

Enemy Combatant 1 (2007)

"Put it all together, and last week's passage of the Military Commissions Act is ominous for those in the US. As Bruce Ackerman noted recently in The Los Angeles Times, the legislation 'authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any protections of the Bill of Rights.' The vague criteria for being labeled an enemy combatant (taking part in 'hostilities against the United States') don't help either. Would that include anti-war protestors? People who criticize Bush? Unclear."
--Heather Wokusch, "Now That You Could Be Labeled an Enemy Combatant,"

I have no right to a speedy trial...

Enemy Combatant 2 (2007)

"KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST OF COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN: I want to start by asking you about a specific part of this act that lists one of the definitions of an unlawful enemy combatant as, quote, 'a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a combatant status review tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the president or the secretary of defense.'

Does that not basically mean that if Mr. Bush or Mr. Rumsfeld say so, anybody in this country, citizen or not, innocent or not, can end up being an unlawful enemy combatant?

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: It certainly does. In fact, later on, it says that if you even give material support to an organization that the president deems connected to one of these groups, you too can be an enemy combatant.

And the fact that he appoints this tribunal is meaningless. You know, standing behind him at the signing ceremony was his attorney general, who signed a memo that said that you could torture people, that you could do harm to them to the point of organ failure or death.

So if he appoints someone like that to be attorney general, you can imagine who he’s going be putting on this board.

OLBERMANN: Does this mean that under this law, ultimately the only thing keeping you, I, or the viewer out of Gitmo is the sanity and honesty of the president of the United States?

TURLEY: It does. And it’s a huge sea change for our democracy. The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the president. In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn’t rely on their good motivations.

Now we must. And people have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values.

It couldn’t be more significant. And the strange thing is, we’ve become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. I mean, the Congress just gave the president despotic powers, and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to, you know, Dancing with the Stars. I mean, it’s otherworldly."
--Excerpt of a transcript from Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 10-18-2006

I have no right to confront my accusers...

Enemy Combatant 3 (2007)

"Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said that enemy combatants won't be released until the War on Terror is over -- and that the war won't be over until no terrorist organizations of potentially global reach are left in the world. 'We're going to cure the common cold before we extirpate political violence from the face of the globe,' says [Georgetown University law professor David] Cole. 'And in today's world, everyone has potentially global reach. So Rumsfeld is essentially claiming that the war on terrorism will last forever -- and that they have the authority to keep people forever, without any hearing, without any trial, even without any access to a lawyer.' "
--Miles Harvey, "The Bad Guy," Mother Jones

Habeas corpus doesn't apply to me...

Enemy Combatant 4 (2007)

"Even in the face of a federal court order insisting on an accused being allowed to meet with a lawyer in order to challenge his enemy combatant status, 'the government maintains that no court has the authority to review that classification.' 'To say that the Executive Branch on its own determination can pick somebody up and hold them indefinitely without any procedure or access to a court or counsel or the press is an absolutely staggering thought,' says Stephen Schulhofer, a law professor at New York University. Meanwhile, the Attorney General insists that misses the larger point. 'There are no civil liberties that are more important than the right to be uninjured and to be able to live in freedom,' Ashcroft recently told Time.


This arbitrariness of designating someone an enemy combatant simultaneously opens the door to illegal searches, indefinite incarcerations, cruel and unusual punishments, confessions by torture, and most any other reprehensible act you can think of that might arise from an evil and misguided regime. One striking example is the extension of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which created secret courts to review applications for domestic wiretaps and searches in the name of national security. This has now reached the level of the feds checking a suspect's library and Internet usage -- and simultaneously prohibiting a library employee from revealing to anyone [including local law enforcement agencies] that a patron is under suspicion."
--Dan Sewell Ward, Library of Halexandria

How long before I am disappeared...?

Enemy Combatant 5 (2007)

"It would be easy to dismiss the harm that has been done to our civil liberties in the past year. Most of us do not know anyone whose rights have been seriously curtailed. The 1,200 detainees rounded up after Sept. 11 and held in secret were mainly Muslim men with immigration problems. So were the people the government tried to deport in closed hearings. The two Americans who were labeled 'enemy combatants,' hustled off to military brigs and denied the right even to meet with a lawyer, are a Saudi-American man captured in Afghanistan and a onetime Chicago gang member.

There is also no denying that the need for effective law enforcement is greater than ever. The Constitution, Justice Arthur Goldberg once noted, is not a suicide pact.

And yet to curtail individual rights, as the Bush administration has done, is to draw exactly the wrong lessons from history. Every time the country has felt threatened and tightened the screws on civil liberties, it later wished it had not done so. In each case -- whether the barring of government criticism under the Sedition Act of 1798 and the Espionage Act of 1918, the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II or the McCarthyite witch hunts of the cold war -- profound regrets set in later.

When we are afraid, as we have all been this year, civil liberties can seem abstract. But they are at the core of what separates this country from nearly all others; they are what we are defending when we go to war. To slash away at liberty in order to defend it is not only illogical, it has proved to be a failure. Yet that is what has been happening.


As the Bush administration continues down its path, the American people need to make clear that they have learned from history and will not allow their rights to be rolled back. The world has changed since Sept. 11, but the values this country was founded on have not. Fear is no guide to the Constitution. We must fight the enemies of freedom abroad without yielding to those at home."
--Editorial, "The War on Civil Liberties, The New York Times (9-10-2002), seen on The Freedom of Information Center


As I argued on an earlier blog post, I believe that fractals can be used as activist art. This post is prompted by today's "Virtual March Against Escalation" -- a national Internet protest designed to curb surging escalation of the Iraq War. I'm well aware that some of you will not agree with my point of view. And that's cool. Fortunately, the Constitution gives you the right to disagree with me and to say so -- unless, of course, you are declared an "enemy combatant."

Images 1 and 2 were made with Sterling-ware. Images 3, 4, and 5 were made with Vchira. All images were imported into various graphics programs and post-processed.

Please click on any image to see higher resolution.


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Anonymous said...

Not just in this country --

BERLIN - German prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA agents who allegedly abducted a German citizen in an apparent anti-terrorist operation gone wrong.

It was Washington's second European ally to seek the arrest of purported CIA agents for spiriting away a terrorism suspect. Italian prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for 25 CIA operatives and a U.S. Air Force officer, alleging that they kidnapped an Egyptian-born radical cleric off the streets of Milan in 2003 and took him to Cairo, where he claims he was tortured.

A court in Milan is considering whether to try the CIA officers in absentia.

Munich prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld told The Associated Press that the unidentified agents were sought on suspicion of wrongfully imprisoning Khaled al-Masri and causing him serious bodily harm.

Al-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was detained in December 2003 at the Serbian-Macedonian border and then flown by the CIA to a jail in Afghanistan, where he was abused. He says he was let go in Albania five months later and told he had been seized in a case of mistaken identity.

Rights activists have seized on al-Masri's story and other cases to demand that the U.S. stop "extraordinary rendition" - moving terrorism suspects to third countries where they could face torture. Some European governments have been accused of winking at the practice.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. officials have declined to address al-Masri's case. Prosecutors in Munich did not identify any of the suspects named in the arrest warrants and released few other details about the probe. Investigators have said they believe most of the suspects used aliases. Three are believed to be pilots who worked on a contract basis for the CIA.

cruelanimal said...

You're right, of course. Another example is that of Maher Arar -- a Canadian who was falsely accused of terrorism, shipped to Syria, and tortured for nearly a year.

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