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Commentary on the present and future of culture, politics, economics, and social values................... "At any given instant/All solids dissolve, no wheels revolve,/And facts have no endurance." W.H. Auden.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Another Decision for the Police State

The US police state is shaping up well, thank you. A decision by the US District Court of Appeals for DC has seen to that.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, US authorities arrested and detained at least 762 persons (maybe over 1000. who knows?) in fear that they might be involved somehow in terrorism. They refused to release the names of the detainees, holding them incognito. "Unconstitutional," cried the critics of the action. Federal District Judge Gladys Kessler agreed with the critics last August and ordered the names to be relased. She said the secret arrest and detention was "profoundly antithetical to democracy."

The US Justice Department instantly appealed to the DC Federal Court of Appeals. Yesterday, a panel of three judges ruled by 2 to 1 to reverse Judge Kessler and keep the names of the detainees secret. The 2 who wrote the decision said that the fight against terrorism justifies the suspension of civil liberties and constitutional guarantees in this case.

The best precedent for this action is in the Gestapo of Nazi Germany. The Gestapo always refused to identify the people it had arrested. They just disappeared. But we knew it could not happen here, right? Not in the land of the free and the home of the brave. We have a Constitution!

Attorney General Ashcroft applauded the latest decision as a victory for democracy. He said it guaranteed "the privacy of the detainees." Is that line from Saturday Night Live?

The US police state marches on. We have the world's largest prison populaton - over 2 million. We run a Gulag in Guantanimo Bay. And now we can imprison people without identifying them or allowing them to see a lawyer. It used to be said in so many Latin American countries by generals after they effected a coup d'etat that democracy must be suspended in order to save it. Yes, yes. If our Constitution does not govern our going to war anymore, why should its Bill of Rights be honored either?

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