about a year ago i was compiling a backup to my journal posts and i KNEW that i had this post i’d written on our attorney general, eric holder. i had an idea of when i posted it, but i could not, for the life of me, find it. i did a search function on all my LJ backup excel files, ran a massive search through my now-defunct old wordpress files lost in the great host migration of 2012, and did a search through my old ibook files. NOTHING. i was annoyed because i knew i’d written it, and to think i’d done all that work to have lost it? ugh.
then about a month or so ago i brought up my google drive, and lo and behold! what should i find but my holder doc i’d been searching for. glorious day! anyway, here it is. heavy, political, and long, but it’s interesting.
For two months this lj entry has been stewing in my brain. Just so you know – it’s gonna be long (and capitalized, as I write these long ones in auto-cap Word).
I listen to MPR on my way home from work, when “Fresh Air” is on. Host Terri Gross had Jane Mayer on sometime in February, who wrote an article about how Eric Holder, the Attorney General, is fighting to hold terrorists’ trials in federal criminal courts instead of trying them as war criminals. The things she was saying about some of his opponents absolutely made my blood boil.
First, let you know: I am not a terrorist sympathizer. Give them a trial and throw them in prison for the rest of their lives. I am, however, really frightened at how easily people in this country throw away simple rights.
Every terror suspect that has been apprehended in this country has had a criminal trial, and Holder wants the mastermind behind 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to have a criminal trial as well. However, a lot of people want him to be tried as a war criminal. The republican who was elected in Massachusetts to replace Ted Kennedy? This was one of his major selling points.
Mohammed was apprehended in the US. The constitution applies to him just as it applies to everyone else in the country. There is no alternative legal system this country – it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL to not try him in criminal court.
Let me explain, for those clamoring to tell me about citizens and non-citizens and to whom the constitution applies. A large part of the US Constitution does not apply to citizens, or to non-citizens. It applies to the GOVERNMENT – what the government can and cannot do to people in the United States.
Amendment 5: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment 6: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Even though it would seems that while Bush was in office, he would’ve had many tried as war criminals, the Bush administration tried to try two terror suspects apprehended in the US in a military commission (as enemy combatants). Appeals courts ruled this to be overstepping boundaries, and the administration did not want this to go to the Supreme Court. The suspects were returned to the civilian court system.
Meanwhile, within the criminal court system, two terrorists (who had been arrested in the US) were given life sentences: the shoe-bomber and Zacarias Moussaoui. The shoe bomber was read his Miranda rights four times! When these sentences were released, the criminal court process was exalted by the same people who are now criticizing Holder.
In fact, military commissions held at Guantanamo were not that tough on terrorists. Even though it had more tougher rules when it came to evidence and laughed in the face of the fourth amendment, military commissions still proved to be easy on crime. One got life after boycotting his trial, one served 6 months (in addition to Guantanamo time) and one served 9 months after a plea bargain had been struck. Two other suspects were released to their home countries while Bush was still in office!
But how do they compare on an equal playing field – the criminal court system and a military commission? Two similar terrorists, one an American and one a Saudi-American, both captured in Afghanistan at the same time, were tried in the two different court systems. The American plead guilty in criminal court and is serving 20 years. The Saudi-American, who was tried as an enemy combatant, was freed after a court challenge.
So why does trying terrorist suspects in criminal courts make people so upset, especially people who would hold the US Constitution in such high esteem? (Glenn Beck.) Because under the Bush administration, Bush seemed to have more say than the court system when it came to terrorists, and now that Obama is bringing terrorists back under the legal and constitutional rules the country, it’s kind of like saying Bush was wrong all along (….which, wouldn’t be bad, IMO).
And that’s what it comes down to. If this country can’t try terrorist suspects in its criminal courts while upholding constitutional rights and law, what are we saying about our criminal courts? That the system is broken? How on earth can we try Timothy McVeigh and others in this system if we can’t try 9/11 terrorists, people who would be facing the toughest jury on earth?
But what really gets my goat, what had me banging my steering wheel and yelling at my radio on my way home, was how on earth we can throw people’s rights away if they’re terrorists, or foreigners, or not like us. For a group of people who is so hell-bent on screaming about their rights, opponents of this sure don’t care much about keeping them around.
When one person’s rights are being trampled upon, you’d better watch your back, because it’s the government the constitution is regulating, not you. And when the government is able to bend the constitution for one group, it’s possible that a group you belong to is not that far behind.
Attributing a lot of this post to: “The Trial: Eric Holder and the battle over Khalid Sheikh Mohammed” by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, Feb. 15, 2010