People get the government they deserve
So by now you’ve probably read somewhere about Mike Hawash, the U.S. citizen and Intel engineer, being held on secret charges, at a secret location, without access to council. Talkleft is definitely the place to go for news and commentary on this issue (for example, this). This is happening under the auspices of the first PATRIOT act; things will go downhill more swiftly should PATRIOT II pass. PATRIOT I doesn’t allow secret arrests of citizens, so Mike Hawash’s detention is probably illegal (and would likely be unconstitutional even should PATRIOT II pass–legalizing secret arrests should require a constitutional ammendment, not an acquiescent congress).
Secret arrests are basically a suspension, or perhaps an overriding, of the writ of habeas corpus (the right to contest detention in front of a court of law; historically, for civilians this means a non-military court of law). There’s a nice summary of the right to habeas corpus petitions at The ‘Lectric Law Library. Here’s the important quote:
In Brown v. Vasquez, 952 F.2d 1164, 1166 (9th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 112 S.Ct. 1778 (1992), the court observed that the Supreme Court has “recognized the fact that`[t]he writ of habeas corpus is the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action.’ Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 290-91 (1969). ”
Translated into plain English, this says
In a 1991 case, Brown v. Vasques, the 9th Circuit upheld the right to petition courts for release. In doing so, the 9th Circuit quoted from a 1969 Supreme Court case, Harris v. Nelson in which the Supreme Court wrote that “[t]he writ of habeas corpus is the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action.” In 1991, the Supreme Court refused to accept an appeal of the 9th Circuit’s Brown v. Vasques decision.
So, yes, secret arrests are scary indeed. For those more swayed by the heart than by reason, here are Hawash’s two children:
What brought all this to mind for me? I was checking out a site, it’s blog-like but not exactly a blog, called Polity Net. There, I found this quote:
“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.
And then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
And then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
— Pastor Niemoeller, arrested by the Nazis during World War II
There’s more on this quote at PolityNet, read the whole thing. Clearly, we’re nowhere near there yet, but for those fond of slipery-slope arguments, it’s food for thought. I suppose the good news is that the Supreme Court members in 1991 were Rehnquist, White, Kennedy, Scalia, Souter, Blackmun, Marshall, O’Connor, and Stevens. So, insofar as the 1991 court tacitly (by denying cert) supported the right to a trial, they are likely to again do so should a case arise. Basically, White, Blackmun and Marshall are out while Thomas, Ginsburg, and Breyer are in–roughly a wash. Also on the hopeful side, there is the fact that civil rights, when and only when it comes to non-intrusive government, is probably the only common ground between most of the left and much of the right. Picture the ACLU and the NRA working together.