November 1, 2006
Cornyn the Orwellian
By James Wilson
In his reply to a Downsizer's petition to repeal torture, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) promptly and courteously sent a response defending his vote for ... the Real ID Act, saying, I supported the REAL ID Act as I believe it to be an important component of national security. Even when sending the wrong reply, Cornyn comes up short. One would think he would try to explain why he thinks REAL ID is an "important component of national security. It appears to us to be, rather, an important component of the Police State, which is why we oppose it. But persistence pay off; a second attempt to contact Sen. Cornyn about the Military Commissions Act led to Sen. Cornyn finally sending the "correct" reply - correct in the sense that he at least got the issue right. But here he contradicts himself. First he claims, Some critics claim that this measure would permit torture or allow the mistreatment of detainees. They further argue that it does not provide sufficient rights for captured terrorists to challenge their detentions. In fact, the legislation neither permits the mistreatment of detainees nor prohibits a detainee from having a fair process with which to challenge his detention. But later, he writes, The new law will not provide al Qaeda terrorists with the same legal rights available to U.S. citizens accused of a crime. ... It will also allow aggressive interrogation techniques, some of them not to be made public, that have already proven their value in preventing attacks on the homeland and U.S. military forces. You see, torture isn't permitted, only "aggressive interroragtion techniques" that are "not to be made public." And detainees will have a "fair process," but will have no legal rights that American citizens have of habeas corpus, the right to challenge one's detention in court. But it is by protecting the legal rights of non-citizens that we protect the rights of Americans. If non-citizens are denied habeas corpus, so are Americans mistakenly (or deliberately) designated non-citizens. Sen. Cornyn says that the Military Commissions Act "will be used to prosecute unlawful enemy combatants such as members of al Qaeda." What he doesn't say is that it will also be used to "aggressively interrogate" innocent men rounded up in military sweeps. Because the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant includes a warrior who "cheats" by wearing civilian clothes, any number of men on an Iraq or Afghanistan street look like they might be "unlawful enemy combatants" even though they're just innocent people minding their own busineess. As the Downsizer who sent us this remarks, in John Cornyn's world "private tribunals where no one can hear you scream will take care of any petty notions about due process."
Filed under Civil Liberties
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