Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Judge, jury and executioner

The Obama administration's assault on the Bill of Rights - and the Constitution - continued yesterday when the government conceded to a federal judge that it was limiting the access defense attorneys had to their clients being held at Guantanamo Bay. The government told the judge that military and intelligence officials would have control over who had access to the detainees. Furthermore, the government told a judge that since the detainees were being held at a military base, the executive branch would hold the key to the jail, not the judiciary.

According to Lyle Denniston in yesterday's SCOTUSblog:

Since the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in Boumediene v. Bush,  guaranteeing Guantanamo prisoners a right to go to court to test their detention, the issue of lawyers’ access has been within the control of federal District judges in Washington.  Under the new regime that began to be unveiled this summer, the Administration intends to shift that process entirely to the military and government intelligence agencies. The commander of the Naval base at Guantanamo is to gain full veto power, beyond review, over the access question, and the intelligence agencies would have the final veto power over access to classified information — even if that information comes from the detainees themselves. 
If this is upheld by Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth after his review, lawyers for detainees will have to agree to the new limits as a condition for any access to their clients or to classified data.  So far, some of the lawyers have agreed, but others are resisting, and are asking Judge Lamberth to keep control over the issue within the District Court under orders that have been in effect for the past four years. 
The new regime is designed, Monday’s new government filing made clear, to give the military firm new control over the military base that is located on the island of Cuba.  The new document repeatedly stressed the military character of Guantanamo, and said its day-to-day functioning must remain within Executive Branch control.  There are now 168 detainees in the military prison there, most of whom are not facing prosecution for any crime. Also held there, though, are what the government calls “high-value detainees,” including the five individuals who are facing military commission trials for planning the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

So there you have it. Our government has been holding these men for years without being charged and without any meaningful contact with an attorney. All in the name of keeping us safe.

Everything our government does to limit, restrict and infringe upon our fundamental rights is preceded either by "it's a dangerous world" and "the need for security." Yet every time no stands up to the government to challenge its decree, those things that make us unique are slowly ground into dust.

And if this is what a supposedly liberal administration is willing to do, just imagine what a law-and-order loving conservative (reactionary?) administration would do. Never forget that the right's calls for limited government only refer to the ability of the government to tax the rich, regulate the corporations and provide a safety net. The right has never had an issue with increasing the government's power to intrude upon the private lives of its citizens or residents.

When President Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009, he promised to defend the Constitution and to uphold the laws of the Untied States. His record, however, when it comes to Guantanamo Bay, detainees, secret foreign prisons, torture and the murder of suspected terrorists is nothing short of shameful.

How is he going to answer his daughters when they asked him why he authorized our government to torture suspected terrorists in secret prisons around the world? How is he going to answer his daughters when they ask him about his decisions to kill American citizens without affording them the right to due process? How is he going to answer his daughters when they ask him about how he ignored the Constitution and Bill of Rights?

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