Trials and Trivializations

While the American Constitution doesn’t officially have a “liquidate the enemies of the State” provision, nor does it have a suspension clause when politically expedient… apparently, the “spirit” of the Constitution is such that, Vietnam War style, we must destroy our civil liberties in order to save them.
Hence, we give you exhibit A, as the opening statements were given in the “new and improved” trial of former “enemy combatant” and alleged “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla in Miami. You will recall that U.S. citizen Padilla found himself in a Kafkaesque conundrum, held in solitary confinement and psychologically tortured and abused for years (for background, you may find my interviews with Padilla’s lawyers Donna Newman and Andrew Patel of interest)… rather than lose on the point of its “authority” to hold citizens like Padilla forever at the sole whim of the executive before the Supreme Court, the Bush Administration settled for the somewhat more pedestrian charges of being part of a conspiracy to aid terrorism and went into the criminal justice system… the problem with these pedestrian charges is that it does not look likely that the government will be able to actually prove them against Mr. Padilla, and hopes that simply by repeating “Al Qaeda” enough times, a jury will buy it.
Meanwhile, at a Navy base in Norfolk, VA, the court-martial of Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz commences; Diaz is accused of leaking “classified information”, in that case, sending a list of names of Guantanamo (GTMO) detainees to New York’s Center for Constitutional Rights (for some background, though not on the Diaz case, CCR’s President Michael Ratner is interviewed by me here)… CCR is, of course, the principal coordinating group for legal representation for GTMO detainees. Diaz’s defense argues that it is not clear at all that the list of detainees was even classified… (for some background on how similar charges worked out against another GTMO officer, former Army Captain and GTMO Chaplain James Yee is interviewed here). Frankly, the Bush Administration’s refusal to release the names of those it detained was an outrage and a violation of both American and international law; eventually, the Pentagon was ordered to release the names (indeed, one version of them appears on this very blog, here). Needless to say, I’m somewhat less familiar with the Diaz case than I am with the Padilla case… I will say that given the Bush Administration’s credibility in prosecuting terror cases and everything else… I have grave doubts about the strength of the charges in both… but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Not how you bet, of course. But still…
Still… American justice appears just that much more oxymoronic as we see Paul McNulty, Deputy Attorney General of the United States, i.e., Number Two (apparently in every sense of the term) at the Justice Department, has just announced his resignation. McNulty had served in several Administration positions, including as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he presided over numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct that came to the fore during the Moussaoui case. In the true style of the Bush Administration, because of the mishandling of the case (as a result of which, Moussaoui did not receive the death penalty), McNulty was rewarded with a promotion, and the opportunity to politicize the entire country’s administration of justice. Unfortunately, McNulty was a little too quick to spill the beans that Karl Rove wanted his personal friends and proteges to have United States Attorney positions… which, you know, embarrassed A.G. Alberto “The Geneva Conventions are too QUAINT to be Adhered to” Gonzales… but nowhere near the point of him resigning, or anything.
I suppose by this point, you’all get the picture… and it ain’t pretty. What’s amazing is that while the “suspension clause” isn’t in the Constitution, impeachment actually is.
I just wouldn’t be expecting to see those kind of details mean anything, I’m afraid.