Assaulting the U.S. Constitution
By Matthew Rothschild, Editor, The Progressive magazine.
George W.Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft are rip-ping away at the fabric of U.S. democracy. They are sending civil liberties down the river. And, they are destroying the system of checks and balances. Here are some of the frightening features so far:
* The detention of more than 1,000 immigrants, without releasing their names to the public.
* The decision to round up 5,000 more legal immigrants.
* The evisceration of the Fourth Amendment. Police no longer need a warrant to enter homes. They can sneak in when you're not there and neglect to tell you about it.
* Prosecutors can listen in to the hitherto privileged conversations between prisoners and their lawyers.
* Ashcroft has prevented some prisoners from even talking to their lawyers - according to a story by Anne-Marie Cusac in the December issue of The Progressive.
* Most ominously, George W.Bush has unilaterally granted to himself and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld the power to prosecute [suspected] terrorists in secret military tribunals.
Bush signed the far-reaching military order on November 13. (The New York Times published it on November 14.) It is one of the scariest documents I've ever read.
Bush can now label any non-citizen of the U.S. a terrorist. The Pentagon can then haul this alleged terrorist before a secret military tribunal. Rumsfeld gets to say where the trial will take place, "outside or within the U.S."
Rumsfeld also sets the rules for the trial, including "modes of proof." Any evidence can be introduced that has "probative value to a reasonable person." This evidence could include hearsay and confessions extracted under duress. The Secretary of Defense also decides upon "qualifications of attorneys," so defendants may not have lawyers of their choosing.
Conviction and sentencing require "two-thirds of the commission present at the time of the vote, a majority being present." The sentence can include "life imprisonment or death."
There appears to be no appeal process. "Submission of the record of the trial, including any conviction or sentence, for review and final decision by me or by the Secretary of Defense if so designated by [Bush] for that purpose," the order said. This is how Peru works, not the U.S.!
The military order mocks the U.S. judicial system. It raises the prospect of the President or the Secretary of Defense seizing anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, anywhere in the world, and dragging them into kangaroo court. Bush and Rumsfeld could become globe-trotting executioners.
Amnesty International says this new order "violates fundamental principles of justice in any circumstances, including in times of war," and is contrary to the Geneva Convention.
Bush's military order of November 13 is one of the gravest threats ever to the U.S. system of justice.
Source: The Progressive, November 15, 2001.