June 26, 2005


Rights Groups Fault White House for Jailing of Terror Suspects (ERIC LICHTBLAU, 6/26/05, NY Times)

Two leading civil rights groups charge in a new study that the Bush administration has twisted the American system of due process "beyond recognition" in jailing at least 70 terror suspects as "material witnesses" since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the groups are calling on Congress to impose tougher safeguards.

The report, which is to be released on Monday by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, found that the 70 suspects, a quarter of them American citizens and all but one Muslim men, were jailed often for weeks or months at a time in American facilities without being charged with a crime. Ultimately, only seven men were charged with supporting terrorism, with four convicted so far, the report said. [...]

With Congress now locked in a fierce dispute over the government's counterterrorism powers under the Patriot Act, the new report reflects an effort by civil rights groups to expand the debate to a range of other legal tools that the Bush administration is using in its campaign against terrorism. Aides to Senator Patrick J. Leahy, ranking Democrat on the judiciary committee, said he would introduce legislation aimed at limiting the government's ability to detain a material witness indefinitely.

The material witness law, enacted by Congress in 1984, allows federal authorities to hold a person indefinitely if they suspect he has information about a crime and may be unwilling to cooperate or poses a risk of fleeing.

The law has been used for many years to compel the testimony of thousands of illegal immigrants whom authorities feared would flee the country rather than cooperate in investigations into border smuggling and other crimes.

Can even the Democrats be stupid enough to latch onto this dog of a non-issue?

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 26, 2005 5:59 PM

Rights groups? More like Lefty groups.

Posted by: obc at June 26, 2005 6:20 PM

Can they afford not to latch onto it?

Posted by: ghostcat at June 26, 2005 6:52 PM

Of all the jaw-jaw over the last few weeks (Durbin, Dean, Rove, etc.) the most telling was the poll that found that only 20% of Americans think that the detainees at Gitmo are being treated too harshly.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 26, 2005 9:09 PM

The problem is, much like Paulin Kael's shock at finding out Nixon had walloped McGovern in 1972, all those Democrats and many in the media only value opinions within their own little cluster, which is usually far to the left of mainstream opinion, so someone like Durbin is shocked when his comments suddenly provoke an outrage that doesn't die down after a day or two.

Inside their little world, concerns over the treatement of terrorists at Gitmo is a major concern -- both because it hurts Bush and because they want to be liked by those "enlightened" folks in Eurpoe -- though a few more polls like that one might actually make the truth sink in, at least in the politicians' case.

Posted by: John at June 26, 2005 9:55 PM

David Cohen:

Like I told OJ when I sent him the article, it's amusing to think that the Democratic minority might be closer to 20% than 40%. Just imagine what the election results would look like if the Left didn't control the media and was unable to launch a steady drumbeat about the kooky fascist theocrats who supposedly run the Republican party.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at June 27, 2005 3:08 AM

The other 20% being those folks who would vote for McCain if given a chance. The people who talk him up as running as the Maverick Party candidate always seem to assume he'll only hurt the GOP. I could see him getting 30% of the total vote and the Dems coming in third with their 20%. (On the other hand, those people might defect to a "moderate" or "independent", but not to a GOP-candidate McCain. So St.Hillary the Candidate has to keep him in his party to stand a chance.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 27, 2005 12:28 PM