Department of the obvious

If the defendant doesn’t know the evidence against him, it’s not actually a TRIAL, now is it?

Of course this shouldn’t need saying, but apparently it does. Sen. Lindsy Graham (R.-S.C.) on the proposed Busharoo courts:

It would be unacceptable, legally, in my opinion, to give someone the death penalty in a trial where they never heard the evidence against them. “Trust us, you’re guilty, we’re going to execute you, but we can’t tell you why”? That’s not going to pass muster; that’s not necessary.

Soviet-style justice is plenty good enough for the Duncan Hunter and the rest of the House Republicans, but apparently not for Graham, McCain, or Warner.

Nor is it enough for the Judge Advocates General of the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps.

Brig, Gen. James C. Walker, the top uniformed lawyer for the Marines, said that no civilized country should deny a defendant the right to see the evidence against him and that the United States “should not be the first.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats are sitting back and letting McCain, Graham, and Warner do the work, denying the President what he and Karl Rove obviously wanted out of this: a chance to depict the Democrats as soft on terror. (Kate Zernike of the Times reports, no doubt faithfully, what she was told about the bureaucratic infighting, but how likely is it that a process not focused primarily on Election Day would have resulted in a roll-out the week after Labor Day?)

Democrats have essentially said they would back Senators Warner, Graham and McCain, leaving the Republicans to lead the fight against the administration, and allowing the Democrats to avoid political fallout from challenging the administration while maintaining their criticism of the administration’s handling of the war in Iraq.

“I think you’re looking for a fight that doesn’t exist,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, told reporters.

This morning, I had the sinking feeling that Bush, Rove & Co. might get away with this one. Now I’m not so sure. As Sam Ervin said about Richard Nixon and his crew, these folks are prepared to defy the laws of man and the laws of God. But Lincoln’s Law of Limited Public Gullibility may be beyond even BushCo’s lawbreaking powers.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

10 thoughts on “Department of the obvious”

  1. Anyone opposes this effort to tear up the U.S. Constitution need only cite two words: Timothy McVeigh. Despite blowing up a federal office building and killing and maiming hundreds of people, including children, McVeigh was tried and sentenced within the full letter and intent of the Constitution. Mr. McVeigh, by all standards and definitions, was a terrorist and a massively dangerous terrorist. Yet the American justice system was not terrorized during his prosecution, trial and sentencing. It remained intact.

  2. I'm afraid the D's are getting sandbagged.
    Just as Spector raised eveyones hopes when he said that he supported the Constitition and was opposed to warrentless wiretaps then wrote a law that legitamizes them so will these three bush bots roll over and play dead by tweaking a word or two but leaving everything that their furher wants intact.
    They are rethuglicans.
    They are liars.
    They cannot be trusted PERIOD.

  3. It might be worth people re-reading _Darkness at Noon_ around now. If you're not silly enough to believe that the "belly slap" really is just a good old slap on the belly then the torture techniques Bush wants to use are now just those used to break people by the NKVD. (Of course it's also worth noting that you'd go to prison if you used these on your wife or kids.)

  4. Thank you Senators: the Bush administration's attempts to bypass the laws of this country must be opposed. As the president keeps talking about freedom and democracy, he sure acts in opposition to them…
    Keep up the good work.

  5. I agree with Pometacom about Timothy McVeigh, but I think there is an even better precedent: the Nuremburg Trials. The Nazis were orders of magnitude more destructive than OBL/Al Qaeda on any measure, including American deaths. Employing against the surviving leaders a modern, fair, humane legal process that we can look back on with pride was the right thing to do from any perspective, and strengthened, not weakened, the United State of America. The same principles should guide us now. We could start by impeaching George Bush.

  6. It's sad that the Democrats have learned, the hard way, that there's nothing to be gained by standing up for fundamental American ideals. Indeed, it seems like they weaken the case for these ideals merely by arguing for them, because that triggers a furious reflexive counterattack. Maybe Ann Coulter thinks torture is good, but as long as there are no Democrats loudly proclaiming that it's bad, she'll find other things to talk about.

  7. "but as Graham, McCain and Warner teach, sometimes the issues are worth more than an election"
    Right, McCain, that principled decent fellow who has never hesitated to criticize GWB. Graham, Warner, I know nothing about, but principled is not the word that comes to mind when I hear McCain. He has a personal stake in this; that does not make him principled, anymore than the senator with Huntington's is "principled" in his support of a massive increase in the NIH genetic diseases budget. I'm glad he's doing the right thing here, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

  8. In some ways Timothy McVeigh is a more accurate and effective analog than the Nuremburg Trials. The N-trials were not about loosely organized terrorist acts, but the tightly centralized actions of a highly developed nation. McVeigh and al Qaeda are precisely about blowing up buildings for the sole purpose of killing innocents and creating fear and terror.
    Second, people today remember the case of Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing. In contrast, not many people alive today remember the setting and substance of the N-trials first hand.
    Third, the trial of McVeigh in a US courtroom directly raises the question of why al Qaeda suspects implicated in 9/11 should be treated any differently than McVeigh in terms of their trials and sentencing. Both participated and conspired to blow up US buildings for the explicitly purpose of creating fear and terror. Once this parallel is established, the torture tactics are clearly illegal under US law since such treatment is not allowed for US criminal suspects under any conditions.

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