Saturday, March 31, 2007

"...we will have to choose whether we believe in the rule of law or the rule of the terrified."

The David Hicks story exemplifies the time in which we live. He seems to be an Australian counterpart to our own John Walker Lindh, a post-adolescent young man who in his early twenties made some very poor choices that will stain the rest of his life. I was about to put together an extended post about his story and that of John Walker Lindh, but it's too much trouble. Readers are able to do their own homework and come to their own conclusions.

It is my conclusion that both are examples of how misguided our children can become, but also how misguided are the systems charged with dealing with miscreants. The post heading comes from a comment by one of the writers at Cernig's blog.

The other angle of this story is that congress and the Supreme Court are both likely to substantially alter the Military Commissions Act that the GOP rammed through in the closing days of the last congress. My guess is that when everything is said and done, Hicks' conviction will be erased, at least according to his own government, and the lasting sanctions in his sentence (no profit from his story) will be ignored. He probably also can't be compelled to testify against others because of his irregular treatment, but we'll have to see what the ultimate shape of the rules of evidence is in the tribunals.

My guess is that in a fair court, the testimony of a person who was held in Guantanamo conditions for five years would be considered tainted. God knows who he implicated and why, but a defense lawyer should--in a fair court--be able to raise doubts about the origins of his claims in light of the evidence of torture at the facility.

And this is not to suggest that Hicks doesn't have valid testimony to give against others. That's the problem with what we've done at Guantanamo and other prisons around the world. We have dangerous criminals in our custody; we have evidence that can be used to build cases to keep those people in legal custody for the remainder of their lives in many cases. But we've tainted the elements required to such an extent that we will have to choose whether we believe in the rule of law or the rule of the terrified.

I know where I stand, even if I hate the outcome.


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