Monday, December 18, 2006

Rights Denied, an American Detainee in Iraq

The Bush Administration's shameful abnegation of our most basic civil rights is illustrated by this story from the NY Times today: Former U.S. Detainee in Iraq Recalls Torment.

We must ask what "freedom loving" purpose is served by denying legal counsel to an unjustly detained U.S. citizen overseas. How is it that our President claims to champion our system of rights and freedom when the most basic protections are not afforded even to our citizens, let alone to other detainees who do not have the minimal protection offered by U.S. citizenship? Without the protections afforded by our Bill of Rights and the requirement that our government follow its provisions who is safe from governmental incompetence or overreaction? Donald Vance, the detainee in question, was a Navy veteran working as a contractor for a security firm in Iraq who tried to do his patriotic duty and alert our government to his firm's illegal dealings and diverting of arms and munitions. The shocking part is that he and Mr. Ertel, the other American detainee, had alerted the military authorities in Baghdad to their company's criminal activities after Mr. Vance collected substantial information about his company's misdeeds and communicated it to the FBI. Also shocking is the apparent incompetence or sheer apathy of the military authorities who held him in stressful and torturous conditions and apparently did not even check his computer as he requested for his communications with the FBI for weeks after his detention. There is a distinct quality to this of the right hand not knowing, or perhaps not caring, what the left hand was doing.

Given the way this situation was handled I have to ask: how were we as American citizens made safer by suspension of habeas corpus, of the application of the most basic civil rights, of the institution of torture light for detainees? I certainly do not feel any safer.

And let's consider yet another question. Without strict regulation of the circumstances of detention and interrogation of detainees, especially U.S. citizens, what protections do whistleblowers have against a corrupt military investigatory authority? I'm not saying the ones in this situation were corrupt, but really, what protection is there? Who's watching the ones doing the detaining?

Speaking of oversight, Alice Marshall of GOTV has posted the following to her site about the Truman Committee from the Next Hurrah blog: The Next Hurrah: (Harry) Truman Committee

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