Friday, September 24, 2004
This Administration Has To Go
From a Washington Post editorial
What remains objectionable -- what looms as more objectionable than ever, now that the government has acknowledged Mr. Hamdi's unimportance -- is the unnecessary assault on civil liberties that the administration led in his case. For three years the administration insisted that Mr. Hamdi be held incommunicado and without any semblance of normal legal process or rights despite his citizenship. For most of his detention he was prevented from meeting with his lawyer. In 2002 the government contended in court that merely allowing him to meet with counsel "jeopardizes compelling national security interests" and would "interfere with if not irreparably harm the military's ongoing efforts to gather intelligence." Mr. Hamdi, it warned, might even "pass concealed messages through unwitting intermediaries."
The government insisted that the courts authorize Mr. Hamdi's detention purely on the basis of a two-page affidavit from a mid-level Defense Department bureaucrat who claimed no personal knowledge of the case. An American citizen could be plucked out of all of the protections of the civilian justice system with no significant judicial review and no opportunity to rebut the facts behind the decision, the administration argued -- and it pushed this view all the way to the Supreme Court, where it received the rebuke it deserved.
Apocalyptic justifications for needlessly aggressive positions that have gross consequences for liberty cannot be wiped away with a blithe "never mind."