January 22, 2009

"Sentence First - Verdict Afterwards"

Hatched by Dafydd

Curiouser and curiouser, to continue the Alice references; President Barack H. Obama has just signed three executive orders ordering the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility closed within a year, along with all other "secret overseas prisons" run by the CIA, and banning the use of harsh or undisclosed interrogation techniques. And then, after signing these executive orders, he subsequently "ordered a cabinet-level review" of whether any of this is even possible:

But even as he reversed the most disputed counterterrorism policies of the Bush years, Mr. Obama postponed for at least six months difficult decisions on the details. He ordered a cabinet-level review of the most challenging questions his administration faces -- what to do with dangerous prisoners who cannot be tried in American courts; whether some interrogation methods should remain secret to keep Al Qaeda from training to resist them; and how the United States can make sure prisoners transferred to other countries will not be tortured.

Fiddle-faddle; don't bother the president with such engineering details! I'm sure if we just put on our thinking caps, we'll come up with the easy, obvious solution that somehow escaped everyone's notice all these years.

Fortunately, Obama is in deep consultation with important leaders of the military and intelligence communities and following their unbiased advice:

As Mr. Obama signed three orders in a White House ceremony, 16 retired generals and admirals who have fought for months for a ban on coercive interrogations stood behind him and applauded. The group, organized to lobby the Obama transition team by the group Human Rights First, did not include any career C.I.A. officers or retirees. [Why invite the opposition to confuse matters by participating in the discussion?]

“We intend to win this fight,” Mr. Obama said, “We are going to win it on our own terms.”

So how, exactly, are we to induce agents of al-Qaeda, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to tell us what they know even if they really don't want to? That much, at least, the president has already figured out:

“We believe we can abide by a rule that says, we don’t torture, but we can effectively obtain the intelligence we need,” Mr. Obama said.

¡Si, su puede!

His cadre of retired flag-rank officers have even more detailed plans of just how to encourage, cajole, and jolly terrorist detainees into spilling their guts without in any way inconveniencing them (which would be unconstitutional):

John D. Hutson, a retired admiral and law school dean, was at the signing ceremony “He really gets it,” Mr. Hutson said of Mr. Obama in an interview a few minutes after the ceremony. “He acknowledged that this isn’t easy. But he is absolutely dedicated to getting us back on track as a nation. This is the right thing to do morally, diplomatically, militarily and Constitutionally. But it also makes us safer.”

Who can argue with that?

Republicans feebly protested that Obama is being unrealistic, that he has no plan, that he simply announced the decision and will leave it to others to find a way to make bricks without straw. Bitter cynics... don't they understand this is a new era of hope and change?

Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the decision to close Guantánamo by a year from now “places hope ahead of reality -- it sets an objective without a plan to get there.”

He said that in briefings for Congress on Wednesday, administration officials “could not answer questions as to what they will do with any new jihadists or enemy combatants that we capture.”

“What are we to do with these people, bring them to the very place they hoped to attack: The United States? What do we do with confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow terrorist conspirators, offer them jail cells in American communities?”

I was always skeptical of Paul Mirengoff's belief that Obama doesn't really mean what he proclaims, that we should eschew all of George W. Bush's extraordinarily successful policies to fight terrorism in an insane rush back to the failed policy of Bill Clinton to treat terrorism as just another civilian crime. And I'm still not convinced that Obama is an utter fool: Perhaps in the end, he'll be overtaken by events and be forced to adopt Bush over Clinton. But the madness of these executive orders shakes my normal optimism.

Will it take another 9/11 to awaken the Somnambulant One? Will the Student Prince come to his senses -- returning to the combination of free-market Capitalism and gritty, determined national defense that has served us so spectacularly for so long -- before another few thousand Americans are slaughtered by an enemy who isn't cowed by thirty days detention and doesn't seek plea bargains?

Or will even that be enough? Alas, I suspect that rather than drive us back towards Bush's measured but relentless prosecution of the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, such an attack would so shock the American people that they would demand we use any means necessary to protect our country.

Desperation and impatience gives statist Democrats a blank check to seize control of everything everywhere -- "for the duration" -- so as to allow Barack Obama to rule by decree, as previous presidents did during national crises, both real (the Civil War, World War II) and imaginary (the "100% Americanism" of the Woodrow Wilson administration). This is precisely the kind of circumstances that leads to what Jonah Goldberg calls liberal fascism, or (he hates this shorthand term) fascism with a smiley face.

The details of Obama's first executive orders do nothing to alleviate nervousness; it is now clear that those prisoners currently held in Gitmo will be moved to facilities in the United States itself:

The order calls for a cabinet-level panel to grapple with issues including where in the United States prisoners might be moved and what courts they could be tried in....

Mr. Obama had suggested in the campaign that, in place of military commissions, he would prefer prosecutions in federal courts or, perhaps, in the existing military justice system, which provides legal guarantees similar to those of American civilian courts.

Trying the detainees as defendants in the United States -- whether in civilian courts or military courts-martial -- ensures that the federal judiciary will have its full jurisdiction, as it would of any prisoner held for any civil offense. I believe that ultimately, the courts will demand nothing less than full "constitutional rights" for all terrorist detainees captured on the battlefield -- including Miranda warnings and the requirement that all evidence must be collected pursuant to a search warrant issued by a judge or magistrate... even during combat.

Any evidence that isn't collected with the same measured legal rigor that police departments across the nation are required to use will almost certainly be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. Terrorists will have the right to demand reams of top-secret, code-word classified intelligence at their trials; and when the CIA or DoD refuses to release that information to terrorists (and to their attorneys, supplied by al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Iran), federal judges will decide they have "no choice" but to set the accused free... every time.

I don't know how we recover from such a catastrophic error in judgment, even if later President Obama eventually realizes what he's done: Once we allow ordinary federal courts jurisdiction in such cases, the Supreme Court will never allow us to take it away again; the camel's foot is already in the door. We shall become the first nation in history -- but alas, probably not the last -- to extend full constitutional rights and privileges to prisoners captured during wartime, even to unlawful enemy combatants.

But at least, thank goodness, liberal "human rights" organizations and the world's elite news media will cheer us. Our precious national reputation will no longer be in "tatters." And once again, America will be a nation of "ideals."

Until the next attack, after which the pendulum will swing hard in the other direction; and we shall become a liberal-fascist state again, as we did under Franklin Roosevelt and under Woodrow Wilson before him.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 22, 2009, at the time of 3:49 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Dick E


“We believe we can abide by a rule that says, we don’t torture, but we can effectively obtain the intelligence we need.”

How can you possibly object to that? We now have a RULE that says the terrorists have to spill their guts. No more need for messy interrogation techniques.

As for prosecuting jihadis in federal or military courts, I hope, as I’m sure you do, that you’re wrong. Maybe this whole thing is a just a sop to Obama’s left-wing supporters, and the year-long delay is a ploy to allow their feeble memories to dim. Then, after much wringing of teeth and gnashing of hands, The One comes to the unfortunate conclusion that the whole thing was a really bad idea after all, and we just can’t treat terrorists the same as criminals.

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2009 8:11 PM

The following hissed in response by: Texas Jack

Kinda hard on the intelligence types, but I reckon the troops will know how to handle the problem in the future: "Sorry sir, there were none taken alive." Come to think of it, that might be an easy way to take care of the ones we already have - shot while attempting escape.

The above hissed in response by: Texas Jack [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2009 8:05 AM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

Skip the appeals and military tribunals, try these hard cases directly before the Supreme Court itself.

Give the liberal justices a good close look at what it is we are dealing with.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2009 2:29 PM

The following hissed in response by: UNRR

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 1/24/2009, at The Unreligious Right

The above hissed in response by: UNRR [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2009 7:05 AM

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