On 9/11 Anniversary, a Need for Sunshine

If we are truly to restore the United States of America, we have to begin by illuminating what our government has done to fight terrorism, especially since September 11, 2011.

1. “A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information.” (Source: “Court Dismisses a Case Asserting Torture by CIA,” Charlie Savage, New York Times, September 8, 2010)

That is so wrong on so many levels. The US prosecution of terrorism is desperately in need of sunshine. We need to shine a clear light on what we have been doing for the past 9 years; we need to take a hard look at what we have been willing to do because several thousand Americans died on September 11, 2001. I believe our response to that terrible event is making our country less democratic.

To be fair, I must tell you that I don’t really believe in “secret government information.” I think our government keeps far too many secrets, classifies far too many documents, has far too many intelligence agencies, and has too big of a black-ops budget. I think we should have 2 intelligence agencies, one a civilian agency and one a military agency. Many people will say I am naive, and perhaps I am. Yet I don’t believe that government should tell all either. I just don’t have faith that the current secrecy regime is necessary or in the best interests of my country.

The points below are discussed in the article above. I have provided direct links to the articles discussed below, but you can also find links in the article listed as the source for number 1.

2.”The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.” (Source: US Approves Targeted Killing of American Cleric,” Scott Shane, New York Times, April 6, 2010)

We should not be trying to kill Awlaki (a cleric linked to the Nigerian panty-bomber and the shooter at Ford Hood). We should be trying to capture him. If he gets killed in the process, so be it. But ideally we would bring him here for trial in federal courts.

3. “A federal appeals court ruled Friday that three men who had been detained by the United States military for years without trial in Afghanistan had no recourse to American courts. The decision was a broad victory for the Obama administration in its efforts to hold terrorism suspects overseas for indefinite periods without judicial oversight.” (Source: “Detainees Barred from Access to US Courts,” Charlie Savage, New York Times, May 21, 2010)

It’s un-American to deny people habeas corpus. I want all terror suspects to have access to US courts. Even the ones who have been freed could have a trial, if they wanted, to attempt to clear their names. All that the Obama administration is doing here is moving Guantanamo farther afield. According to this article, there are 800 detainees at Bagram. The government is arguing that Bagram is in another, sovereign country. Well, I guess that’s technically true, but the government of Afghanistan is hardly stable. If our forces left today, it would probably not last long. And even if the government were strong and able to govern all of Afghanistan, since when has the United States allowed another government to control what it does on its military bases?

4. The Jeppesen case mentioned in number 1 (Jeppesen is a Boeing subsidiary accused of flying detainees to countries where they were tortured) considers whether the state secrets doctrine should be used to shut down entire lawsuits or be limited to restricting access to certain information. I do not believe the government should be able to shut down entire lawsuits. That gives it too much leeway to avoid scrutiny of its actions. I want maximum scrutiny of what the government is doing to combat terrorism.

How Is This Restoration?

Every so often people (in this case, an entire country full of people) need to take a good, hard look at what they are doing and where it will lead them. I think our actions to combat terror through military means are leading us down a dangerous road, a road that leads to a less-free country and a less-free world. (That being said, I am still in favor of staying in Afghanistan and have been since the beginning of the war.)

What do you think?