Saturday, September 10, 2005

Your rights go poof

Newsflash -- on Tuesday, 22 November 2005, Jose Padilla was finally changed with a crime after being held for three years as an 'enemy combatant.' He was labeled an 'enemy combatant' on President George Bush's say so. "Your rights go poof" was written before the indictment. Finally charging Padilla with a crime, rather than holding him illegally, was a victory for free people everywhere.

Original post:

According to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the President can arrest you and imprison you forever without:

- charging you with a crime
- allowing you access to a lawyer
- allowing you access to your family
- bothering with a trial

Furthermore, you are presumed guilty and the evidence against you can be kept secret. This was decided in a case against Jose Padilla.

If this is upheld in the Supreme Court, our rights as a free people are gone. Jose Padilla may be guilty, I don't know. But I do know that you and I only enjoy the constitutional rights Jose Padilla has. The President stripped his rights away simply by declaring him an 'enemy combatant.' There is nothing to prevent the President from doing the same to you, or I, or his political opponents. You may (or may not) trust the current President, but what about the next one?

Background: Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in Chicago three years ago and accused of associating with al Qaeda and planning acts of terrorism. President Bush declared him to be an 'enemy combatant.' He has been in jail ever since. He has never seen a lawyer or anyone else (other than his jailers). He has never been charged with a crime. He has never seen the evidence against him.

Most recently, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government's imprisonment of Jose Padilla was legal. The most frightening thing about this ruling is that the court assumed that the government's charges were true [reference]. In other words, that Padilla was assumed to be guilty, not presumed innocent until proven guilty.

All this is in direct contradiction to the Constitution of the United States of America. The charges against Padilla have never been proven in court. They may be true, who knows? That's the point. Mistakes have been made before. A Seattle lawyer was accused of planting the bombs in Spain. The FBI had fingerprints. It turned out the FBI had poor quality fingerprints and got the wrong guy. He was a lawyer and successfully fought false imprisonment. Will you be as lucky? If the government doesn't need to obey the Bill of Rights with regard to Padilla, it can do the same to you.

All this is justified by the 'war on terror.' However, the war on terror has never been declared by Congress, and, according to the Constitution, only Congress can declare war. Legally, we aren't at war. Also remember that the 'war on terror' will continue for at least decades, and probably centuries. Whatever rights we give up to the 'war on terror' might as well be gone for good.

The bottom line is that a government unconstrained by the Bill of Rights is a lot more dangerous than al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The government has a lot more power and plenty of incentive to use it against U.S. citizens. If this ruling stands, expect to see political opponents of whomever is in power in jail. That could easily be you.

What the government could do, legally:

If there's not enough evidence to convict Padilla, why not just follow him? Or find some other crime he committed (he's a former gang member) and convict him of that? Even if he evades observation for awhile, he's so well known that no other terrorists will work with him for fear of being caught. The government has plenty of power to deal with Padilla without throwing your rights in the toilet.

What to do:

- Tell your elected representatives that this is unAmerican. It is.

- Give money to the ACLU. They are defending your rights in court by representing Padilla, even though they have never met him. If you think the ACLU is a bunch of lefties, remember that they are also defending Rush Limbaugh (an extreme right-wing talk show host).