Thursday, August 29, 2002

More on AshKroft's Kamps:

  1. Apparently, some think that the original article on the camps has been completely debunked. The point is that there are at most 20 prison cells in question, and that fact, while unfortunate, is not enough to get upset about. The camps issue is thought to be a red herring, and the real issue is still the indefinite detention of 'enemy combatants', especially when the determination of whether one is an 'enemy combatant' is made solely by the Bush Administration. It seems to me that this is true, but it is also important not to forget the issue of the camps. The actual physical construction of the camps is irrelevant. FEMA (the agency that can predict the future) and no doubt other organizations already have suitable camps, constructed for legitimate and semi-legitimate reasons. Once the precedent is set using Padilla and Hamdi (it is possible that the Padilla case is worse than the Hamdi case), and the mechanism is set up to allow the Administration to process 'enemy combatants' in bulk (and anyone who followed the Eichmann trial knows how important the institutional mechanics of repression are to this type of person), it would therefore be easy to 'scale' the 20 cells into 200, 2000, or 20,000. The critical point is the fact that the precedent of Padilla and Hamdi has been set, and as hardly anyone complained about it, it can be used against anyone, even an American citizen arrested in the United States.

  2. The whole system being proposed by Ashcroft is actually the equivalent of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. His theory is that once he has determined that you are an 'enemy combatant', then all normal Constitutional protections immediately evaporate. However, presumably the protections can't evaporate before he makes that determination, i. e., in that legal millisecond before he makes his determination the courts still must be able to examine the Constitutional validity of the making of the determination, and in examining this, presumably have the right to consider all the facts of the case. The judge in the Hamdi case is alive to these issues. The whole 'enemy combatants' issue appears to be a rather transparent method to avoid human rights protections using the circular argument that the Constitution doesn't apply because it doesn't apply to 'enemy combatants', coupled with the dubious notion that you can become an 'enemy combatant' by your alleged involvement in the never-ending and ill-defined 'war on terror'.

  3. The most interesting questions about Padilla have never been asked. He was detained in early May, but his detention only came to light with Ashcroft's announcement in early June. Since the Administration felt absolutely no qualms about Padilla's detention, and almost didn't bother to mention it until it needed a big distraction from the Coleen Rowley testimony, the whole issue of how many other detainees like Jose Padilla there are remains completely open. The camps may already be full!

  4. Jonathan Turley, who seems to hold a monopoly in writing about these issues, points out that Ashcroft now wants to turbo-charge the secret court which interprets and enforces the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to make its draconian powers apply to American citizens. This would presumably grant the government practically unlimited powers of investigation in order to obtain the information required to label the 'enemy combatants', as well as on anyone else the Administration would like to investigate without regard to that nasty Constitution (somewhere in hell, Richard Nixon must be laughing).

  5. There is an interesting pattern here in the Administration's use of the media. We constantly hear about 'leaks' from the Bush Administration, and sometimes (e. g., Rumsfeld) even hear complaints about the 'leaks'. The 'leaks' and general use of the media appear to be the work of a master manipulator (Rove?):

    • the Padilla case was clearly set out for the American people, and the full implications of his treatment explained, allowing for his case to be used as a precedent for the indefinite detention without trial or legal representation for any American citizen labelled an 'enemy combatant';

    • the constant flow of warnings about imminent terror attacks, to continue the charade of the 'war on terror';

    • all the 'leaks' involving plans on Iraq, which may be a combination of trial balloons and misdirection, especially if the real goal of the Administration is also to capture Saudi oil fields;

    • all the obvious media manipulation concerning the anthrax attacks and Steven Hatfill, a patsy who is apparently to be used to distract public attention from the real issues of the case (with apparently another patsy in the wings to take over once the Hatfill investigation peters out).

But hey, if you don't want to worry about the AshKroft Kamps, then don't worry about the AshKroft Kamps. As long as you're white and quiet and don't criticize the government, you'll probably be fine.