As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Equal Justice

I'm getting to this late, but Jack Balkin (h/t Hilzoy) has some excellent questions about George Tiller's alleged murderer Scott Roeder:

"(1) Should the United States be able to hold Roeder without trial in order to prevent him from returning to society to kill more abortion providers? If we believe that Roeder and other domestic terrorists will plan further attacks on abortion providers and abortion clinics if we let them free, can we subject them to indefinite detention?

(2) The Obama Administration is currently considering a national security court to make decisions about the detention of suspected terrorists, with the power to order continued preventive detention. Should this court be able to hear cases involving U.S. citizens, whether they are Muslim or Christian? (...)

(4) One of the most important reasons for detaining terrorists (suspected or otherwise) is to obtain information about future terrorist attacks that may save lives and prevent future bombings. To procure this information, can the government dispense with the usual constitutional and legal safeguards against coercive interrogation? Should it be able to subject Roeder to enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding and other methods, to determine whether Roeder knows of any other persons who are likely to commit violence against abortion clinics or against abortion providers in the future? Would your answer change if you believed that an attack on an abortion provider or a bombing of an abortion clinic was imminent?

(5) Terrorists and terrorist organizations need money and resources to operate effectively. Often the only way to stop them is to dry up their sources of financial and logistical support. Can the U.S. government freeze the assets of pro-life organizations and make it illegal to contribute money to a pro-life charity that it believes might funnel money or provide material support to persons like Roeder or to organizations that practice violence against abortion providers? Can the government arrest, detain, and seize the property of anti-abortion activists who helped Roeder in any way in the months leading up to his crime, for example by giving him rides or allowing him to stay in their homes?"

In fact, if you want to talk about ticking time bomb scenarios, Roeder would certainly be a subject for interrogation. He has been involved in pro-life movements for many years; he was arrested and convicted in 1996 for attempting to bomb an abortion clinic; he attempted to break and enter into Tiller's clinic in the weeks leading up to the murder (a federal crime under the FACE Act), and his name and license plate number were sent to the FBI; he had the phone number for Operation Rescue in his car, and Operation Rescue provided information about Tiller to Roeder before the shooting. In the wake of Tiller's murder, a pro-life activist published photos and personal information of other doctors who perform late-term abortions.

So on those grounds, considering there may be other individuals seeking to kill American doctors, considering that Roeder has multiple ties to the movement that would carry out those killings, it would only make sense to use the interrorgation techniques on Roeder that would help protect Americans. Right? Furthermore, everyone associated with these movements, all of the dangerous suspected domestic terrorists or those with ties to them, including the commentators who fanned the flames of hate, ought to be locked up without charges so that they don't hurt Americans. Right? Right?

Well, I don't believe the answer is yes. But apparently, on a bipartisan basis, our political leadership does believe that some individuals should be subject to indefinite detention in case they commit a crime in the future, and that the legal system is not equipped to handle them. And the overwhelming majority of at least one major political party believes that torture is justified if it saves American lives. As Hilzoy says:

Obviously, though, these tactics were never meant to be used against people like us. It's only other people -- scary, presumptively guilty other people -- whom we get to detain without trial, based on evidence that would not win a conviction in a normal court of law. Not people like us.

Personally, I think this would be a bad idea. But a lot of people seem to disagree. They seem to think it's fine to toss aside centuries of legal tradition, not to mention our civil liberties. What's really strange is that they claim that they are doing this because they love freedom.

Well said.

Maybe someone in the media could ask any member of either party about this.

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