Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Fifth Amendment

Exclusive Property of the Bush Administration?

Nothing brings the Bush administration's naked partisanship and arrogant contempt for the law into focus so much as do two of today's top news items. Both have strong connections to the fifth amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. The first, the case of Monica Goodling, pictured to the right.
Goodling, 33, is a 1995 graduate Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., an institution that describes itself as "committed to embracing an evangelical spirit."

She received her law degree at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. Regent, founded by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, says its mission is "to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world."

E-mails show that Goodling was involved in planning the dismissals and in later efforts to limit the negative reaction. As the Justice Department's liaison to the White House, she could shed light on the extent of White House involvement in the dismissals.

Goodling took a leading role in making sure that Tim Griffin, a protege of presidential adviser Karl Rove, replaced H.E. "Bud" Cummins as the U.S. attorney in Arkansas. Documents released to Congress include communications between Goodling and Scott Jennings, Rove's deputy.
Ms. Goodling would be a key witness in the Congressional investigation into the dismissal of federal prosectutors if not for her invocation of her fifth amendment rights not to incriminate herself. This has already made a difference, and changed the world in a number of ways. First, it has pundits on the right actually defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, something they haven't been doing much since their beloved Führer President Bush infamously referred to the Constitution as 'that Goddamn piece of paper.' Second, it sends a clear signal to Congress that at least in Ms. Goodling's opinion laws were indeed broken in this case. Did I mention she has a law degree?

One other way she has changed the world is that now Monica Lewinski can breathe more easily - Monica Goodling seems well on her way to replacing Lewinski as the Monica whose name is most firmly associated with White House scandal in future history books.

Let us now shift our focus to the second case, that of Australian David Hicks (pictured to the left.) Hicks just plead guilty to terrorism charges after over 5 years detention at the infamous Guantanamo Bay - part of America's own Gulag Archipelago. Some great links courtesy of TomPaine.com help one appreciate just what 'enemy combatants' have to endure. BringHicksHome.com actually built a replica of his cell in Australia that people could visit, and took it on tour. The fact that it could be transported on the back of a truck should tell you something. Peter Murphy created a virtual reality model of the cell for those unable to make it to any of the Australian locations. Amnesty International has also taken up his case, and the World Socialist Web Site has details of his brutal treatment.
He explained that he was “beaten before, after, and during interrogations... [and] threatened, directly and indirectly, with firearms and other weapons before and during interrogations” during his three-year detention.

He also heard the bashing of other detainees during interrogations and saw their injuries. He states that he has been hit in the face, head, feet, and torso with hands, fists and other objects, including rifle butts.

“At one point, a group of detainees, including myself, was subjected to being randomly hit over a eight-hour session while handcuffed and blindfolded,” he said. His head was rammed into the ground several times.

Other elements of prisoner abuse exposed show that Gitmo was a testing ground for the regime of physical and psychological abuses that later would be associated with Abu Ghraib - sleep deprivation, threats with attack dogs, forced injections with unknown drugs, humiliation and intimidation of naked prisoners, and more.

Why was David Hicks treated this way?
“I was told there was an ‘easy way’ and a ‘hard way’ to respond to interrogation,” he said. ... “Cooperation with interrogators,” Hicks stated, “offered the only means of relief from the miserable treatment and abuse the detainees suffered. Those who failed to comply suffered abuse until they gave in.”
David Hicks has plead guilty to aiding the cause of terrorism, under a system of military tribunals that didn't even exist when he was incarcerated. He was previously charged with attempted murder, which charge has since evaporated. I think it would be perfectly reasonable to conclude that Hicks' plea came about because, “Cooperation with interrogators offered the only means of relief from the miserable treatment and abuse the detainees suffered." Prior to today Hicks' lawyers have consistently stated that he did not expect a fair trial. Let me make that point a little clearer.

- From Canada.com:
Marine Lt.-Col. Colby Vokey, [Canadian Gitmo detainee Omar] Khadr’s lead defence attorney, said he believes Hicks pleaded guilty simply to "escape the hell" of Guantanamo, because a deal with the Australian government will allow him to return home to serve his sentence... The guilty plea gives a boost to President George W. Bush, who was forced last year to abandon an earlier system of military tribunals after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled they violated international law... Hicks’ guilty plea sets a dangerous precedent because it came after a stormy, one-day tribunal hearing in which a U.S. military judge dismissed two of the Australian’s defence lawyers.
- From ABC News online (Australia), Aug., '05:
Two emails, which have been obtained by the ABC, were sent to supervisors in the Office of Military Commissions in March of last year - three months before Australian detainee David Hicks was charged and five months before his trial began.

The first email is from prosecutor Major Robert Preston to his supervisor.

Maj Preston writes that the process is perpetrating a fraud on the American people, and that the cases being pursued are marginal.

"I consider the insistence on pressing ahead with cases that would be marginal even if properly prepared to be a severe threat to the reputation of the military justice system and even a fraud on the American people," Maj Preston wrote.

"Surely they don't expect that this fairly half-arsed effort is all that we have been able to put together after all this time."

Maj Preston says he cannot continue to work on a process he considers morally, ethically and professionally intolerable.
The second email is written by another prosecutor, Captain John Carr, who also ended up leaving the department.

Capt Carr says the commissions appear to be rigged.

"When I volunteered to assist with this process and was assigned to this office, I expected there would at least be a minimal effort to establish a fair process and diligently prepare cases against significant accused," he wrote.

"Instead, I find a half-hearted and disorganised effort by a skeleton group of relatively inexperienced attorneys to prosecute fairly low-level accused in a process that appears to be rigged."

Capt Carr says that the prosecutors have been told by the chief prosecutor that the panel sitting in judgment on the cases would be handpicked to ensure convictions.

"You have repeatedly said to the office that the military panel will be handpicked and will not acquit these detainees and that we only needed to worry about building a record for the review panel," he said.
- From Leftwrites, just a few weeks ago:
So the US military has charged David Hicks—but not with attempted murder. What a slap in the face for all those who loyally mouthed the American talking points on Hicks!

The evidence against Hicks was so strong, they assured us, and the things he’d done were so heinous, that the man deserved nothing less than Guantanamo Bay. Rumsfeld (remember him?) told us that Gitmo contained only the "most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the Earth," and all the right-wing ditto-heads nodded their slack-jawed assent. Yet now, with the US under pressure to provide some proof, the attempted murder charge miraculously evaporates.

That, boys and girls, is the reason we have a legal process, since (gasp!) not everything that the authorities say turns out to be true.

In any case, now that the Americans no longer claim that Hicks actually tried to kill anyone, it will be interesting to see the basis on which the Right tries to defend the continuing violation of the rules of law in his case.
- And again from ABC News online Feb. 3, '07:
The US military has revealed details of the drafted charges that include attempted murder and providing material support for terrorism... Mr Hicks's US military lawyer, Major Michael Mori, has questioned the charge of attempted murder, pointing out that the US military prosecutor has acknowledged that Mr Hicks never fired a shot in anger.
To sum up, the so-called 'due process' of this case is a sham, fitting well with my earlier description of the Bush 'Potemkin Village' of justice. But to get back to my original point - let's act like good high school students, and compare and contrast the functional impact of the fifth amendment in the case of Monica Goodling compared to the case of David Hicks.

I believe it will eventually be revealed that Monica Goodling's hiding behind the fifth amendment is frivolous. If she did so to hide someone else's wrongdoing rather than her own, say Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove, or someone even higher in the White House food chain, that would not be her right, that would be obstruction of justice. As a lawyer she should know that. But her frivolous and obstructionist misuse of the Bill of Rights is OK, because she is connected to this administration. And this administration is acting like the Constitution is their property.

There could be no more egregious breach of the principal that one cannot be made to bear witness against oneself than a coerced guilty plea, as that of Hicks appears to be. But he isn't in the White House 'in crowd', so he doesn't get to make use of 'their' Bill of Rights.

And sadly, neither do you or I.

UPDATE: If this article doesn't already have you seething at the inequity and iniquity of Bu$hCo™ justice, read this HuffPo piece.
U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan threw out a lawsuit brought on behalf of nine former prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said Rumsfeld cannot be held personally responsible for actions taken in connection with his government job... "This is a lamentable case," Hogan began his 58-page opinion Tuesday.

No matter how appealing it might seem to use the courts to correct allegations of severe abuses of power, Hogan wrote, government officials are immune from such lawsuits. Additionally, foreigners held overseas are not normally afforded U.S. constitutional rights.
Cross-posted at The Existentialist Corral

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