Swapping one form of terrorism with another. Is it worth it?
Since the capture of suspect of the Boston Marathon bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev there have been demands to have the 19 year old youth regarded as an enemy combatant who should be held without the usual legal amenities offered to criminal suspects. Although intuitively this may sound like a wise plan in the sense that it puts a lockdown terrorist behavior it raises concerns as to how we go actually go about the task of applying law and the general belief that one is presumed innocent until found guilty in a law of court. At present one senses Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has for all intensive purposes has already been tried and found guilty and now we all need to do is interrogate him and throw him to the wolves. If only it was quite so simple…
Reflects the UK’s guardian: Shortly before Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an American citizen, was apprehended last night, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham advocated on Twitter that the Boston Marathon bombing suspect be denied what most Americans think of as basic rights. “If captured,” Graham wrote, I hope [the] Administration will at least consider holding the Boston suspect as [an] enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes.” Arguing that “if the Boston suspect has ties to overseas terror organizations he could be treasure trove of information”, Graham concluded: “The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to ‘remain silent.'”
In attempting to find a middle ground President Obama has chimed in to suggest that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would indeed eventually be tried in a court of law and presumably offered a lawyer. That though is no guarantee that the suspect (and that we should remember is what he still is) will be afforded his Miranda rights and offered the right to remain silent and the guidance of a lawyer, something that has yet to be decided on. If anything Republican senators are insisting that the youth be held for extensive questioning so as to ascertain the young man’s affiliations and any other plans or actions that may affect the pubic’s immediate safety. A course of action that has invigorated outrage from various Democrats, progressives, liberals and the like and perhaps for good reason.
They insisted that such actions would be radical and menacing, a serious threat to core Constitutional protections. I certainly shared those sentiments: the general concept that long-standing rights should be eroded in the name of Terrorism is indeed odious, and the specific attempt to abridge core constitutional liberties on US soil under that banner is self-evidently dangerous.
What though the administration should also be aware of is the fact that courts have ruled in the past, admissions offered by a suspect before s/he were not read their rights have in the past not been admissible in the court of law, a danger that authorities are certainly very aware of and wondering how to negotiate.
Nevertheless perhaps this is all conjecture as the administration has already show a proclivity in the recent 2 years to hold who they consider to be terrorist suspects posing immediate danger in indefinite captivity.
It is bizarre indeed to watch Democrats act as though Graham’s theories are exotic or repellent. This is, after all, the same faction that insists that Obama has the power to target even US citizens for execution without charges, lawyers, or any due process, on the ground that anyone the president accuses of Terrorism forfeits those rights. The only way one can believe this is by embracing the same theory that Lindsey Graham is espousing: namely, that accused Terrorists are enemy combatants, not criminals, and thus entitled to no due process and other guarantees in the Bill of Rights. Once you adopt this “entire-globe-is-a-battlefield” war paradigm – as supporters of Obama’s assassination powers must do and have explicitly done – then it’s impossible to scorn Graham’s views about what should be done with Tsarnaev. Indeed, one is necessarily endorsing the theory in which Graham’s beliefs are grounded.
And then there’s this sobering reflection which ought to have any well intentioned citizen gravely concerned:
“No one is crying over the rights of the young man who is accused of killing innocent people, helping his brother set off bombs that were loaded to maim, and terrorizing Boston Thursday night and Friday. But the next time you read about an abusive interrogation, or a wrongful conviction that resulted from a false confession, think about why we have Miranda in the first place. It’s to stop law enforcement authorities from committing abuses. Because when they can make their own rules, sometime, somewhere, they inevitably will.”
And then ultimately we’re left with this menacing reality:
Leave aside the fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been convicted of nothing and is thus entitled to a presumption of innocence. The reason to care what happens to him is because how he is treated creates precedent for what the US government is empowered to do, including to US citizens on US soil. When you cheer for the erosion of his rights, you’re cheering for the erosion of your own.
Which might be a round about way of saying that the only way to retain the idea of freedom and liberty is by further eroding our collective liberty and freedoms, something that by definition brings us closer to totalitarianism, if that is something some of us are willing to stomach which intuitively I suspect most of us are not even though the wheels are already moving in that direction. Who knows perhaps in the end the real terrorist isn’t those who light up bombs in public spaces but the way we as a society choose to deal with such behavior, which once again begs the question, what are we really achieving when we resort to a kind of terrorist behavior ourselves for the idea of preserving freedom and liberty when our very own actions only serve to erode it.