The writ of habeas corpus (requiring a warrant to search or take someone into custody) and due process (fair trial) are two of the most basic of democratic (small “d”) principles. No government, no society can expect to last long that does not have as a fundamental principle of its existence to be justice. Injustice breeds revolution and chaos. With the exception of an orderly transfer of power, there is not much else that is as important to ensuring liberty as are these two principles.
The president has been given the authority to have anyone in this country arrested without warrant and declared an enemy non-combatant. Also, our military and the CIA can pretty much do the same in foreign countries. Many of these enemy non-combatants are detainees at Gitmo (nickname for our detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba). Most Americans don’t know that the Gitmo detainees are not allowed to even see or speak to an attorney until they sign a confession of guilt. The attorney is not allowed to know the charges until then, and he often is denied access to the information against his client under the guise of the excuse that it is classified information of a national security nature.
So, how do you defend a client that you can’t meet, that must sign a confession before they are even assigned an attorney, that the evidence against them is top secret and unavailable to you, that the administration does not even have to prove it had probable cause to arrest you in the first place?
This is what the detainees and their attorneys have been dealing with.
And before you make the assumption Bush’s administration wants you to make about these prisoners — that they’re all very bad characters, too dangerous to be released or tried through our normal court system — let me suggest a thought:
Anyone captured by our military (on or off American soil) and anyone on American soil can be arrested without a warrant or probable cause, declared an enemy non-combatant, tortured through rendition (secretly exporting them to a foreign intelligence agency that can legally torture in their country or to a CIA “warehouse” in a foreign country) or at Gitmo, stay in captivity indefinitely, never see a lawyer, never be told why they were detained — all without the administration even having to inform their families of where they are, what is happening to them, why they were detained or what their future holds. All under the cloak of secrecy.
One of the reasons the administration chose to house these detainees at Gitmo is because they have total security and control over the facility. No visitors, reporters or even attorneys or other court officials are allowed on the island without express written permission from the Gitmo commander. And you can rest assured that whatever news reporters are shown is only what the administration wants them to see.
If you were an innocent man and this potentially happened to you, would you trust the Bush administration to give you a fair trial under these circumstances?
If it can happen to anyone else, it can happen to you. And there is no one holding the administration accountable for any of it. This is crimes against humanity, the likes of which we have supported the death penalty when it applied to Slobodan Milosevic, the former president (dictator) of Serbia and Yugoslavia, who was indicted for war crimes.
So, why isn’t Bush being indicted and arrested by the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity? He should be. As should Cheney and others who created, promoted and followed this policy.