Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A victory for the Bush Police State

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good, but, in this case, or, rather, with these cases, the bad, which is truly awful, far outweighs the good, a qualified good at most.

George W. Bush and his administration of Constitution-shredding warmongers are, as you should know, turning the United States into a police state. How they are doing this has been a matter of great discussion among critics of what they have done: domestic surveillance, extra-legal detentions, the consolidation of executive power over the legislative and the judicial, the creation and exploitation of a culture of fear, the vilification of the Other, etc.

And they won a major victory today, with the judiciary backing the executive (which was supported by submissive legislature). As a result, the United States is even more of a police state today than it was yesterday. The NYT has the details:

President Bush has the legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians captured in the United States, the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Tuesday in a fractured 5-to-4 decision.

But a second, overlapping 5-to-4 majority of the court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, ruled that Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar now in military custody in Charleston, S.C., must be given an additional opportunity to challenge his detention in federal court there. An earlier court proceeding, in which the government had presented only a sworn statement from a defense intelligence official, was inadequate, the second majority ruled.

The decision was a victory for the Bush administration, which had maintained that a 2001 Congressional authorization to use military force after the Sept. 11 attacks granted the president the power to detain people living in the United States.

The court effectively reversed a divided three-judge panel of its own members, which ruled last year that the government lacked the power to detain civilians legally in the United States as enemy combatants. That panel ordered the government either to charge Mr. Marri or to release him. The case is likely to reach the Supreme Court.

The good is certainly good for Marri, but the key decision is the first one, not the second one. As Marri's lawyer put it: "This decision means the president can pick up any person in the country -- citizen or legal resident -- and lock them up for years without the most basic safeguard in the Constitution, the right to a criminal trial."

Welcome to the Bush Police State, the new America.

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