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We must resist the urge to panic

May 5, 2010

In the two (three?) days since the arrest of the Times Square bombing suspect we have been bombarded by calls to treat him as an enemy combatant. To me most of these seem panicked and should be resisted on civil liberty grounds. I supported the Patriot Act as a logical extension of existing criminal law to intelligence cases, and I support Guantanamo Bay as being the best way of reconciling terrorism with the Geneva Conventions. I cannot support the idea of denying an American citizen arrested on American soil his rights. It goes too far. If this citizen had been arrested on the battlefield or overseas, or in active collusion with Al-Qaeda or the Taliban it might be different but he wasn’t.

What is particularly worrying to me is Lieberman’s idea to strip terrorists of their citizenship. I don’t have a problem with it if they are convicted of terrorism first, but he wants to do it in order to deprive them of their Miranda protections (conveniently ignoring the fact that according to the Supreme Court even non-citizens on US soil are protected by Miranda) which means it would have to be done before the conviction.

That’s scary.

The other thing that bothers me about Lieberman’s proposal is that it seems selectively aimed. I haven’t seen many calls for declaring the Huttaree enemy combatants, which given the state of the case against them at this point is probably a good thing. I oppose terrorism but I don’t want us crossing a line in which we mirror the old Soviet Union and enemies of the state (terrorists) disappear into a gulag or a mental hospital.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. xbradtc permalink
    May 5, 2010 12:28 pm


    I will say that while I’m certainly all for depriving enemy combatants, particularly those who decline to adhere to the laws of war, any access to our federal courts, I’m troubled when the urge arises to deny American citizens access.

    There are shades of grey here. I thought Jose Padilla was handled entirely wrong. And American citizen, arrested on American soil, by a law enforcement agency, should not have been transferred outside the protections of the civilian court system.

    An American citizen, seized on the battlefield while bearing arms, or acting in support of our enemies is a somewhat different proposition.

    I’m guessing that we are dealing with problems not too often faced by previous administrations, or if so faced, were handled somewhat more abruptly.

    But in the case of citizens, I’m certainly leaning toward maintaining their protections against the power of the state.


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