Sunday, February 12, 2006


Our Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, thinks that certain provisions of the Geneva Conventions (no interrogation of prisoners of war) are quaint. The implication is that those provisions do not apply to the USA today in the circumstances of the global effort to combat terrorists. Indeed, Gonzales follows up by giving the President an opinion that in this war on terror, we may take into custody our suspected opponents, declare that they are “terrorists,” or “enemy combatants”, and the detainees may be held and treated as the Commander in Chief directs. If any act of Congress purports to limit that power of the executive, the statute may be ignored because it is an unlawful effort to limit the Chief in his conduct of the war.

A detainee is taken into custody by the Armed Forces of the United States. Does the detainee get taken before a neutral, independent magistrate, for a hearing to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that he is a terrorist? No. Does he get the protection of a grand jury or other investigating authority, to review the showing of probable cause? No. No bail (that is okay, because this is a capital offense). No written charges, nor any opportunity to question his wardens as to when, where, why, what. No chance to prove innocence at a trial, because no trial. Forget the burden of proof.

A detainee may be interrogated (that is okay, why not; and if he does not answer we may reasonably infer that he has something to hide). To induce the detainee to give up valuable information about the terrorists and their plans, we may use interrogation techniques which our President and Attorney General and Secretary of Defense approve. Never mind that most Americans would not approve; it is enough that they do not know what the techniques are or have been led to believe that “those” techniques have been discontinued. Never debated in Congress!