Civil Rights and the War on Terror


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Derek Zeanah
December 29, 2002, 03:04 PM
"If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job," said one official who has supervised the capture and transfer of accused terrorists. "I don't think we want to be promoting a view of zero tolerance on this. That was the whole problem for a long time with the CIA." From this article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37943-2002Dec25.html).

I thought it was telling.

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Maddock
December 29, 2002, 04:12 PM
Great Britain is already well down that road.

“Drinkers face drug test as they enter the pub…Police have warned that anyone refusing will automatically arouse suspicion and have told establishments that do not co-operate that it will be held against them when their licenses come up for renewal…If someone refuses, then it is a tick in the first box of suspicion. Police officers are present and it may be that further questions will be asked.”

http://www.news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/12/20/npubs20.xml

G-Raptor
December 29, 2002, 04:34 PM
Derek,

The article you quoted is about the interrogation of terrorist suspects, rather than the treatment of civilians. While a share the adversion to the mistreatment of anyone, we are walking a fine line here.

Although this has to be taken largely on faith, the assumption is that there is strong evidence that these people are engaged in terrorist activities (to be directed against us) and have information which could be used to prevent future attacks - getting that information is a priority.

We are not dealing with traditional military engagements where troop or material movements can be identified and monitored. Rather we are dealing with a largely invisible underground network of individuals and small groups. How then to obtain the information we need to combat them?

It is, as they say, the "ticking bomb" scenario. You "know" there is a large bomb somewhere in the city. If the bomb explodes, you know that many people will die. You have evidence and you believe that the person in custody knows where the bomb is. The clock is ticking.

So do you serve him milk and cookies or do you beat the crap out of him until he talks?

In deference to Maddock, I would say that this is entirely different than the general violation of rights going on in England.

faustulus
December 29, 2002, 04:40 PM
This may sound cruel, but as long as this isn't happening to U.S. citizens I am fine with pretty much anything. Is it morally right, maybe, maybe not. But legally they are not afforded the protection of our laws or Constitution. Now "enemy combatant" is a different story, one that boils my blood.

Derek Zeanah
December 29, 2002, 04:57 PM
Originally posted by faustulus
This may sound cruel, but as long as this isn't happening to U.S. citizens I am fine with pretty much anything. Is it morally right, maybe, maybe not. But legally they are not afforded the protection of our laws or Constitution. Now "enemy combatant" is a different story, one that boils my blood. and Although this has to be taken largely on faith, the assumption is that there is strong evidence that these people are engaged in terrorist activities These are statements that frighten me.

You're making the argument that it's OK to violate someone's rights if the government makes the determination that they might be a threat to national security. Am I right?

Can you envision a scenario where those in power might decide to use such treatment against you and I, under the same reasoning? Or that they might claim to be doing so, and feel no obligation to press charges, or tell the world (or us) why we're being treated this way? That we might not have the opportunity to defend ourselves in court?

That in such a country anyone could be arrested and detained indefinitely by the authorities for any reason, without showing cause or presenting any evidence to back up their assertion that we're "terrorists?"

Look at the big picture, and take a long view. Imagine that precidents set now might support these sorts of actions under another administration -- think Clinton/Leiberman, or worse...

Malone LaVeigh
December 29, 2002, 06:17 PM
Originally posted by G-Raptor
Derek,

The article you quoted is about the interrogation of terrorist suspects, rather than the treatment of civilians. What's wrong with this line of reasoning? Oh, yeah, that little nicety called "presumption of innocence." How do YOU propose to separate the "terrorist suspects" from the rest of the civilians? Oh, yeah, take the rulers' word for it. They only want to protect us, after all.

G-Raptor
December 29, 2002, 06:24 PM
Originally posted by Derek Zeanah

You're making the argument that it's OK to violate someone's rights if the government makes the determination that they might be a threat to national security. Am I right?



No, I am not making that argument. What I am attempting to do is make a distinction between philosophy and practical reality. I am also making a distinction between civil governance and the conduct of war. Finally, I distinguish between citizens and non-citizens.

ALL governments, ours included, sometimes engage in repugnant acts on behalf of their citizens. We hope that this is done only in the conduct of war.

The greatest violation of a person's human rights is to kill them. Whether this is done "up close and personal" or by dropping a bomb from 20,000 feet is immaterial. The effect is the same. War, by it's nature, violates human rights. In that context, all you can do is attempt to minimize it; i.e. is it better to bomb the village or torture the terrorist?

I am exercising a certain degree of trust by not assuming that agents of our government are wandering foreign countries, randomly snatching people off the streets and dragging them off to inquisition torture chambers for their daily amusement. I am exercising a certain degree of trust in assuming that there is strong justification for their action. I know that governments (our included) are capable of horrible things, but I am allowing a certain leeway because we are actively at war.

If "torturing" a Japanese spy in 1941 had prevented Pearl Harbor, would you have objected?

If "coercing" information out of Mousoui on Sept 10th had prevented the Sept 11th attacks, would you have objected?

Country folk have a saying: Don't watch sausage being made - it ruins your appetite."

OTOH, the government's use of the term "illegal enemy combatants", troubles me - as in the Padilla case. He is a US citizen and the government has effectively eliminated ALL of his rights on the "claim" that he is an enemy and without judicial review. In the context of civil governance I believe it is encumbent upon the government to "prove it's case" in a court of law. I do not extend that requirement to the battle field.

Derek Zeanah
December 29, 2002, 06:40 PM
Originally posted by G-Raptor
OTOH, the government's use of the term "illegal enemy combatants", troubles me - as in the Padilla case. He is a US citizen and the government has effectively eliminated ALL of his rights on the "claim" that he is an enemy and without judicial review. In the context of civil governance I believe it is encumbent upon the government to "prove it's case" in a court of law. I do not extend that requirement to the battle field.

Ah, and that's the point. As you say -- US Citizens have already been picked up in the War On Terror, and are being denied those rights that we hold sacred as we speak. The question is, if there isn't a declaration of war, and there isn't an enemy that's readily identifiable by nationality or other means, then how on earth do you limit the scope of the "war"? In my mind -- you don't. And you end up with a situation where people have civil rights and must be treated a certain way, or you have a situation where people disappear off the street and we're asked not to ask too many questions -- after all, it's for our own good.

That's scary. What's scarier is how many people support the concept, either for utilitarian reasons, or because it's happening to someone else. Hint: there's no clearly defined line between "us" and "them."

Now, do the ends justify the means? I'd say no, but that's more a moral argument than a practical one. I believe that one day I'll be held accountable for my actions during life, and that some actions are simple inexcusable. Torture is near the top of the list.

I understand that many (most?) may disagree with this viewpoint, but it's ehere I stand. It's the only moral choice I see...

JPM70535
December 29, 2002, 06:56 PM
Are you implying that if we had learned beforehand that the terrorists who planned 9-11 were middle eastern males, that if one or more of them had been detained that they should have been treated with the same deference given to a suspected shoplifter for example? I say no.

I find the whole concept of full civil rights for non citizens, especially those whose ethnic backgrounds match the profile of terrorists baffling. Had we detained one or more of the terrorists prior to 9-11 I would be receptive to the use of any and all methods to obtain information necessary such as names,dates,methods to be employed, etc.

When I worked as a LEO, I always respected the civil rights of suspects and even when I knew beyond any doubt that he was guilty of the offence involved was not going to be the cause of the imminent death of one or more persons. Had I known that to be the case, I would have used whatever method it took to elicit the info. needed to prevent this from taking place.

Excuse the rant, I just cant get used to the idea that an individual bent on harming this nation should be allowed to benefit from the same rights as those who love this land and would defend it to the death.

The Plainsman
December 29, 2002, 07:03 PM
I share (as do most other TFL & THR folks) your concerns regarding the diminution of our civil rights as a result of the "War on terrorism". However, in the case of this article and it's subject, we're talking about activities in a war zone (declared or undeclared) and people who have been captured in the prosecution of that war. These folks aren't US citizens and they're not civilians. They're enemy combatants. As far as I'm concerned, there's no difference between these people and VC or NVA troops during Vietnam, North Koreans in the Korean War, or German and Japanese troops during WW2.

While I'm concerned about your rights and mine, I also want to avoid watering down our case by trying to include people who are enemy combatants who have been captured in another country by US troops. They have the Geneva Convention to protect them.

Wakal
December 29, 2002, 07:06 PM
If they are not an American, then they don't get the rights of an American.

We get screwed over in every other country in the world (well, at least the ones I've ever been stationed in...about two dozen the last time I added them up) as "outsiders" and "notcitizens", yet we treat other countries' citizens as "Americans" with full rights and privileges thereof.

Ummm....no.

And yes, I'm not comfortable with the treatment of Americans as "rightless" terrorists either, no matter what they were captured doing. Although...if captured bearing arms against American forces, the penalty for treason is still firing squad.


Alex

Derek Zeanah
December 29, 2002, 07:38 PM
Originally posted by The Plainsman
While I'm concerned about your rights and mine, I also want to avoid watering down our case by trying to include people who are enemy combatants who have been captured in another country by US troops. They have the Geneva Convention to protect them. Ah -- you mean they would if they were prisoners of war, right? "Enemy combatants" gets around treatment required of POW's and of citizens.

With regard to rights of non-americans, I'm going to have to disagree. A Japanese man has a right to not be tortured if suspected of a crime -- at least in my world, whether his government recognizes that right or not. I guess it goes back to that "...that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."

However, in the case of this article and it's subject, we're talking about activities in a war zone (declared or undeclared) and people who have been captured in the prosecution of that war.Actually, I was talking about the attitudes toward civil rights by those we trust with pushing the War on Terror. The attitude seems to be mirrored by many here: "rights" are nothing when compared to the harm that those people are trying to do to us. Which in practice translates into "Rights are no longer important in this day and age. We have bigger problems to face now than 'rights.'" To me, this country used to be all about rights, and personal liberty.

I just think that those who support these positions should think carefully about the dividing line between "them" and "us." As far as I can tell, it's whoever the fed.gov says it is. And we may see future office holders who view different groups as threats to national security. It always starts with something that few object to, then grows frighteningly fast to cover much larger groups.

Derek Zeanah
December 29, 2002, 07:54 PM
Had we detained one or more of the terrorists prior to 9-11 I would be receptive to the use of any and all methods to obtain information necessary such as names,dates,methods to be employed, etc.

OK, you've got a situation where you've detained some Saudi nationals on Sept 10th. You decide on a hunch to ask them if they're planning anything evil for the next day. They say no.

The only way you could have gotten the info you were looking for out of them is something like torture, and as they were planning "god's work" I'd guess they'd be more resistant to torture than most. Regarless -- your statement could be translated as:

In order to prevent future atrocities, we should use any and all means necessary to coerce those who might have bad intentions to spill the beans. Basically, we should have been torturing all Japanese prior to entering the war, in the off-chance that something might have been happening and that they might have known something about it.

Now, we should be using torture to gather information from all middle-easterners, as they might be part of a future plot. In the same vein, we should be using torture against all white males with military backgrounds, especially those with militant views, as they could easily be planning the next OK City bombing.

See a problem here? If not, pretty much everyone gives up info under torture in order to make the session stop -- everyone confesses. How do you separate those made-up confessions from those that are real?

cratz2
December 29, 2002, 11:08 PM
I've always said that bad things go on all over the world to keep various parties (the US included) 'safe' that civilians of those various parties (the US included) would rather not ever had to think about.

On the original subject, I watched one of those crappy 'we treated these poor Islamic Middle-Eastern men that had broken laws and violated their Visas' shows the other day and it really made me fell like as much of a white conservative male. The show was about people that were arrested for breaking the law in one form or another. Expired visa, threats, physical violence... point is that while they were here from another country, some bad guys that practice the same religion as them flew some planes into our buildings killing people from all over the world. In the immediate aftermath, I'm sure many of them endured racial slurs and were spit on, hit, beat up, had their stores vandalized etc... but this is certainly not a good time to be threatening ANYONE esp if you are here on an expired visa.

One man, who I believe was from Syria, had his family deported and was imprisoned for about 9 months. He can't go back there (because he is an accused spy) and his family can't come here. I did feel sorry for him. His life was completely torn apart because he failed to have is visa renewed. I can't imagine the guilt he must be plagued with. On the other hand, his situation is so dire and helpless than he could well become a terrorist out of frustration at the system.

I wonder how long it will be before some of these people start bombing the INS locations.

The Plainsman
December 29, 2002, 11:25 PM
As far as I'm concerned, captured "enemy combatant" and "POW" are interchangeable, but I reckon the "rights" of the enemy, be he a combatant or a POW, aren't much, if any, different than a would-be robber or murderer who has just kicked in my front door - his rights terminated (at least temporarily) when he began to disregard mine. He is fair game until I am satisfied that he no longer represents a threat to me or mine.

In the case of these folks who are currently prisoners (POW or otherwise) of the US military, fought, captured and held outside the U.S., they may continue to be a potential threat on the basis that they may have information that may be useful in preventing a further threat to me, mine or other US citizens. If these folks are prudent enough to do their bad things right here in the good, old, U.S., THEN they get to enjoy the rights guaranteed by our constitution - at least as soon as U.S. citizens at the scene, are finished defending themselves by shooting lots of holes in these people. :mad:

pax
December 29, 2002, 11:39 PM
If they are not an American, then they don't get the rights of an American.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..." Brave cadences that echo down the halls of time, aren't they?

Don't mean squat if we aren't willing to recognize the truth it spoke.

Fact is, those funny-looking brown people are born with the exact same rights as your adorably pink little babies. And they retain those same rights even if they choose to wrap rags around their heads and speak in a strange accent.

Foreign nationals don't have a "right" to welfare, nor do they have a "right" to blow up buildings and kill people. But they certainly do have every single one of the rights listed in the BOR -- or else our brave words that the Bill of Rights "recognizes" but does not "give" rights is nothing but so much nonsense.

Be careful what you ask for, people. You might get it. You demand the government "do something!!" about terrorism, and demand that your elected officials and their bulldogs be willing to torture human beings (who may be innocent, yet!) in order to get to "the truth" and maybe save lives. Well and good -- but do you think such a weapon won't be turned on you, later?

pax

Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal. – Martin Luther King Jr

I had to commit a positive evil there and then, in the hope of a possible good later on. The good outweighed the evil; but the good was only a hope, the evil a fact. -- Milton Mayer, writing about Nazi Germany in They Thought They Were Free

Seeker
December 30, 2002, 04:28 AM
Thanks Pax, you saved me some typin'.

Oleg Volk
December 30, 2002, 11:51 AM
It is, as they say, the "ticking bomb" scenario. You "know" there is a large bomb somewhere in the city. If the bomb explodes, you know that many people will die. You have evidence and you believe that the person in custody knows where the bomb is. The clock is ticking.

So do you serve him milk and cookies or do you beat the crap out of him until he talks?



...and what do you do if it turns out that the suspect was an innocent?

The unintended consequence of this type of approach will be that people being apprehended will have everything to gain by fighting to the death rather than surrender. The Medieval Japanese condoned torture of prisoners, as a result one per 120 dead surrendered to Americans during WW2. They were conditioned to expect the worst. By contrast, Americans expected fair treatment and surrendered at the rate of one per three dead. They got mistreated terribly for their trust and, eventually, adjusted their expectations. Japan got nuked.

This mis-match of expectations isn't good for anyone. The Germans were much more willing to surrender to Americans than to the Societs, hence lower inensity of resistence to the US/UK forces.
Once US residents figure out that they will be tortured by the officials, we will see suicide bombings and other "death before submission" responses. Moreover, torture and what we would consider illegal detainment would remove any legal or ethical ligitimacy from the force used. Any retreat from the rule of law as we see it would directly cause the targeted individuals to treat this as a real war and to hunt those who represent the "other" side.

As for visa violations, ask THR or TFL immigrants just how often INS loses paperwork and then blames it on the victims.

QKRTHNU
December 30, 2002, 12:41 PM
If "torturing" a Japanese spy in 1941 had prevented Pearl Harbor, would you have objected?

If "coercing" information out of Mousoui on Sept 10th had prevented the Sept 11th attacks, would you have objected?
Yes I would have objected!

Freedom is not free. That goes for all of us, not just the ones that have physically fought and died for freedom. We all give up the false sense of security offered by a Govt. that would torture suspects on behalf of the people to prevent calamity.

What do we get in exchange for giving up that false sense of security? Freedom. Knowing that we won’t be subjected to that kind of mistreatment ourselves.

Are you saying it would have been worth saving the lives of the people at Pearl Harbor & the Trade Center if it meant a future where US citizens were subject to the same kinds of treatments required to get the needed information to prevent the attacks?

The people on 9/11 died BECAUSE this is a Free Country. If we had checkpoints at every intersection & none of our rights recognized the Trade Center would most likely still be standing. Is that what you want?

faustulus
December 30, 2002, 06:10 PM
You're making the argument that it's OK to violate someone's rights if the government makes the determination that they might be a threat to national security. Am I right?

I am speaking from a legal standpoint. Killing someone without giving him a proper trial by a jury of his peers is, in my view wrong. Yet the country does it everytime it goes to war. Legally speaking they are engaged in the act of murder. However foreign nationals are not afforded the protection of our laws or constitution. Similarly they believe in a different world view. They may believe they have the same rights as I. However, I am under no legal mandate to grant them their worldview. Now this line of thinking leads to a very isoloationist stand. But I can live with that.

So if torturing a Japanese citizen would have prevented pearl harbor, yes I would go for that. But if it meant torturing an American Citizen, then no I couldn't abide that.

I believe that rights are derived from God. However, because I believe this that doesn't make it so. I choose to live amongst people who share my beliefs. They are rights because we agree that they are.

Derek Zeanah
December 30, 2002, 06:48 PM
Originally posted by faustulus
I believe that rights are derived from God...They are rights because we agree that they are. There's a basic disconnect here -- either rights are granted by God and are therefore a birthright of all human beings, or they're there because we decide they're useful and can be revoked from those we disagree with (negros, juden, damn ay-rab camel jockeys, fags, etc.)

I've got to be an absolutist here -- some actions are wrong. Some actions are so wrong that they make he who commits them (regardless of his motive) worse than he is defending against. Some are so wrong that any nation that embraces their use loses all ligitimacy.

You don't torture people because they might have information on a future event that may or may not happen. It's evil. It's something that's almost 100% used against innocent people. Likewise, human beings have rights, and those rights exist whether you label them "enemy POW's," "enemy combatants," "suspects," or "citizens."

Again -- anything you willingly endorse against "those people" will eventually be used against you. And you'll have no right to claim it's unfair, or that it's unreasonable, because you cheered when it was used against someone else.

You want to make a legal argument? Fine. Here's pax's sig from earlier in the thread:Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal. – Martin Luther King Jr

faustulus
December 31, 2002, 12:12 AM
I've got to be an absolutist here

I respect your position. I cannot, however, share such a position. There is a scarcity of "nevers" and "always" in the world. To me it comes down to the idea that I believe. I believe and therefore take on faith that all men are created equal. But I could be wrong. I will fight to maintain that position. But somewhere along the line I have no basis for that belief other than faith.

The problem I have with absolutes is that there is no wiggle room. If you believe torture is wrong then it is always wrong, but more importantly you lose the ablity to be able to say what torture is. Torture is then defined by the person receiving treatment. All torture is always wrong. If you are an absolutist you must believe that. The question then becomes what is torture? As an absolutist you must increase your definition to include almost anything, if not then you are cheating your own system. It is sort of like saying stealing is wrong, but I am not stealing the car I am borrowing it.

Secondly the quote is misleading, not everything Hitler did was legal. Certainly not the night of the long knives nor his buildup an army.

Lastly as I said I am not saying it is immoral, nor am I say it isn't, but if they are used against me it will not matter whether I cheered them or condemed them.

Derek Zeanah
December 31, 2002, 12:27 AM
All torture is always wrong. If you are an absolutist you must believe that. The question then becomes what is torture?Now that's a leap that I don't follow.

I believe we could come to an agreement over what turture is -- Mirriam-Webster gives the following as the 2nd definition: 2 : the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure.

It's wrong to take someone who might have done something wrong (or worse -- be thinking about doing something wrong), and subject him/her to increasing levels of pain and abuse until they tell you what you want to hear. That's the way you get everyone to confess to witchcraft, and to provide evidence that their story is true. The question then becomes: is it really true, or were these people pushed to the point where they would do literally anything to make the pain stop?

Even worse -- when such a situation is in place, it's always justified by the results you receive. Grab 200 people off the street at random, torture them until they confess as to the murder they were planning on committing, and come back in a week with 200 signed confessions. Well, clearly there was no abuse as only those who were going to commit murder were subjected to such treatment, and wouldn't everyone agree that you lose your civil rights when you plan to extinguish someone else's life?

Now, are 200 randomly selected people likely to be planning a murder? No. Are you likely to be able to come up with confessions from the same 200 people if you use the appropriate stimulation? No doubt -- yes.

And that's the potential harm you're supporting, and that's the course you're willing to place the country on.

As an absolutist you must increase your definition to include almost anything, if not then you are cheating your own system.Now, you're going to have to support this. How does the argument above turn into one that argues against "almost anything?"

faustulus
December 31, 2002, 01:16 AM
It is sort of like saying stealing is wrong, but I am not stealing the car I am borrowing it.

As I said definitions become important if you come down on the side of absolutes. For example if killing is wrong, to be an absolutist, killing must always be wrong. That means it is wrong to kill in self defense. Likewise if torture is wrong, who gets to define torture? Many civil rights groups would immedately through out your dictionary's defintion because it excludes psychologial torture, or spiritual torture. To be totally agaisnt torture you must be against all its forms this includes some you may not consider torture but others might. The who defines torture becomes important. I would argue that for an absolutist position to contain any validity the definition must be supplied by the one being tortured not the torturer.

pax
December 31, 2002, 02:24 AM
Faustulus,

Of course definitions are important. They are important to non absolutists as well as to absolutists.

I hope you enjoy the brave new world you are building.

pax

To those who think that the law of gravity interferes with their freedom, there is nothing to say. -- Lionel Tiger

faustulus
December 31, 2002, 04:19 AM
I hope you enjoy the brave new world you are building.

The government is, in theory supposed to protect the rights of its citizens. It is under no obligation to protect the rights of anyothers. The Bill of Rights is a legal document. I am not arguing that torture is wrong or right, but simply that our constitution and our bill of rights are legal documents and therefore carry legal restrictions. These restrictions are not extended beyond its borders.

Now if it is the duty of the America government to uphold these ideals worldwide then we are doing a poor job of it. And we will have to fight and probably kill 70 percent of the world that does not agree with our concepts of "rights"

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