July 25, 2009

Keeping Up Appearances

Every country's government has a line they will not cross. For the government of the United States of America, this line is apparently the use of the military to arrest suspected terrorists with US citizenship. Apparently that violates the Fourth Amendment-- no unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause.

Okay, sounds good. We like our constitutional rights. The problem with this is that while using the military to arrest citizens is off-limits, using the FBI to arrest them and then transferring them to military custody for "interrogation" is completely fine.

I'm referring to the case of Jose Ibrahim Padilla, a United States citizen arrested on United States soil. He was first detained by FBI agents- that part was very important to President Bush- and not by US soldiers. In 2002, against his vice president's wishes, President Bush decided that it was not allowable for US troops to arrest other US citizens; FBI agents could still exercise that power.

Padilla's detainment was justified by the Iraq Resolution of 2002, which states that the president can "use all necessary force against... such nations, organzations, or persons"; supposedly Padilla also qualified officially as an "enemy combatant" and was thus stripped of certain unalienable rights.

What worries me about the whole situation is President Bush's reason for keeping the military, for all appearances, restrained. While soldiers weren't actually knocking on citizens' doors, Bush could pretend that citizens were afforded their constitutional protections. But Padilla was held without any formal charges against him. And he was transferred to military custody. So, what's the difference?

Appearances is the key word here. If the troops had started banging on our doors we'd have known we were living in a military state controlled by our governing body's will. As it was, the government managed to convince us that we were still safe, with our constitutional rights intact.

All of this leaves me with two thoughts: one, that perhaps paying attention to appearances is the only reason President Bush wasn't faced with complete widespread civil unrest in this country, back in the Dark Ages of his and Cheney's reign (did those phone taps ever get lifted?); and two, that maybe we should start paying more attention to the removal of our constitutional rights.

No comments:

Post a Comment