Sunday, May 25, 2008

With Liberty And Justice For All

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Just a little reminder of how our Constitution starts. As you will recall from your middle school civics class, this document was intended to provide the framework for the nation and its actions. It was also intended to apply to everyone, including, perhaps especially, the government.

This past seven years, the current government has gone to great lengths to destroy the guarantees of that Constitution and has been more successful than our nation's founders would have abided. Our rights to privacy, to a government with checks and balances, to a system which does not allow unlimited government detention, and to fair trials all have been trampled and discarded as inconvenient.

One of the more egregious examples of this anti-constitutionalism is playing out in Guantanamo Bay. The trials of those who have been detained for six and seven years will be starting in less than two weeks. One of those trials involves Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man who bragged about being the mastermind behind 9/11 and about being the man who personally beheaded Daniel Pearl. If in fact he did these things, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is a monster, one who should be shut away forever. However, under that quaint document we call the Constitution, because he is being held by the United States government and is going to be tried by a United States court (one of questionable jurisdiction), he is entitled to the rights guaranteed by that venerable parchment. Especially him. The Constitution and all of its guarantees must apply to all. No exceptions, because if exceptions are carved out, then the Constitution really is meaningless.

And yet, this government intends to throw all of those guarantees out the window, according to this article in today's Los Angeles Times. It deals with the difficulties facing a Navy Reserve judge advocate general named Prescott L. Prince who has been assigned to defend Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He is outmanned and outgunned by the prosecutors who have access to all of the evidence against the defendant, most of which is unavailable to Mr. Prince, and some of which was obtained by torture, including water boarding.

Prince has to share a paralegal with another detainee lawyer, and he still hasn't gotten top-secret security clearances for Scott McKay and David Nevin, the two Idaho-based civilian attorneys who, along with Army Lt. Col. Michael Acuff, make up his legal team.

He said he had trouble getting the Pentagon to take him to Guantanamo and, once there, to allow him to see his client. And, he said, all of his requests for discovery material have been denied.

He said he had also been hamstrung by institutional obstacles, including evidentiary rules favorable to the prosecution that will probably allow the use of hearsay and confessions and other evidence obtained through coercion.

Prince said a protective order he had to sign prohibited him from discussing publicly anything his client said to him, even to people who could potentially be corroborating witnesses. And, he said, he is prohibited from taking his notes with him after interviews with Mohammed, making it more difficult to follow up on the information.


And so Mr. Prince is doing the best he can, with an eye towards building grounds for appeals that may take years.

"I think it's the constitutional case of our time," Prince, 53, said in a recent interview in his office, U.S. and Navy flags front and center on his desk. "Because in the 221st year of America, the question is whether the Constitution applies to the government." [Emphasis added]

Godspeed, Mr. Prince. Just remember that there is ample precedent for your view. The advocates at the Nuremberg Trials held the same belief in true justice that you hold.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Karen said...

But, but, 'it's a damn piece of paper' !!!!!

12:41 PM  

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