FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Supporting Torture is not Gonzales’ Greatest Sin

by BRIAN J. FOLEY

Focusing on torture as the main objection to Alberto Gonzales’ taking over as Attorney General distracts us from his greater sin: his attempt to give the president the power to imprison Americans incommunicado and indefinitely, without recourse to courts or lawyers. Such contempt for our civil rights shows that Gonzales cannot be trusted to protect them.

The White House, with Gonzales as legal adviser, argued for this unchecked and arbitrary power in two cases, all the way up to the US Supreme Court. Those cases concerned Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla, Americans whom President Bush suspected were “enemy combatants” and threw into military prisons. Both men had no way to question the grave accusations against them.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court rejected the Administration’s claim to such power last June and ordered that Hamdi be given a hearing (it avoided that issue in Padilla’s case based on procedural grounds). When the government was required to prove its case against Hamdi, it released him instead, revealing that it had lacked any legitimate basis for locking him away for over two years. (Despite its lack of evidence, the government forced him to renounce his US citizenship and deported him to Saudi Arabia.)

What happened to Hamdi is outrageous. But the greater outrage is that the Administration ever argued for such power in the first place. The safeguards that the president tried to strip from us are part of the fundamental “due process” of law that our Constitution requires before the government can take our life, liberty or property. Due process is not a privilege to be given or removed at the government’s behest, but a right that belongs to the citizenry, part of the bargain for delegating our powers to our government.

Due process is crucial for two reasons. First, access to the courts can correct mistakes. Even before 9/11, people were often arrested in error. Now that police are focusing on preventing terrorism, the risk of error has increased. Normal behavior is more likely to seem suspicious. It’s also easy to imagine how a person’s enemies, or someone seeking a reward or a plea deal, might bear false witness. Courts can ferret out such problems.

Second, giving prisoners access to courts protects against government’s abuse of power. A government that can, on its own say-so, arrest and imprison a person is dangerous. Such power chills the dissent and debate and free thought that democracies demand. It also wrecks lives.

This was the view of our Founding Fathers, as Gonzales must have learned even before law school. Arguments that the so-called War on Terror calls for rejecting this view are specious.

Gonzales’ supporters argue that the president “needs” the power to arrest people he believes are plotting terrorist attacks, even if he lacks evidence that would satisfy a court. But how can anyone know that someone is a threat, without subjecting facts to rational proof? Without such rigor, people will be seized and jailed based on mere guesswork.

Moreover, our law already provides ample ways to thwart people planning to commit crimes. Evidence that a person has taken steps to commit murder can convict him for “attempted murder.” Evidence that a person has agreed with another person to commit a crime can convict him for “conspiracy.”

Gonzales’ supporters also argue that holding a prisoner without access to an attorney can make him more susceptible to interrogation, which can yield information that might stop a terrorist attack. But what if someone is arrested by mistake and knows nothing? It’s unlikely that the government — so sure of its decision to arrest him — would release him. Instead, the government might torture him, perhaps for years, until he “confesses.” This nightmare is not farfetched, given Gonzales’ support for torture.

At bottom, the Bush Administration, advised by Gonzales, has claimed the power to arrest and imprison innocent people. No one should have such power. To seek it is anti-democratic and anti-American. That alone is reason for the Senate to reject him.

BRIAN J. FOLEY is a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law. He can be reached at bfoley@fcsl.edu.

 

 

 Brian J. Foley is a lawyer and the author of A New Financial  You in 28 Days! A 37-Day Plan (Gegensatz Press). Contact him atbrian_j_foley@yahoo.com.

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
Alice Donovan
Cyberwarfare: Challenge of Tomorrow
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
April 28, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz Díaz
Puerto Rico: a Junta By Any Other Name
Alfredo Lopez
Where the Bern is Fizzling: Why Sanders Can’t Win the Support of People of Color
Peter Linebaugh
The Commons and the Centennial of the Easter Rising
Dan Arel
What Next? Can the #Movement4Bernie Accomplish Anything?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail