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a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Department of followups: vanishing civil liberties edition

Posted by Thomas Nephew on November 22nd, 2005

Freedom of speech in ole Virginny, October 4, 2005 — We can all breathe easy: George Mason University student (and Air Force veteran) Tariq Khan will not face charges for being roughed up by university police after he peacefully protested against military recruiting on campus. The Washington Post’s Tom Jackman reported (November 15, 2005):

Fairfax County prosecutors yesterday dropped charges against a George Mason University student who was arrested by campus police in September while protesting military recruiting at the school.

After investigating the case, George Mason officials asked last month that the charges against Tariq Khan, 27, be dismissed. Fairfax prosecutors complied in a brief hearing in Fairfax General District Court. Neither school officials nor prosecutors would explain why yesterday.

Here’s my theory why: from accounts I’ve read, I think Khan has a better case against the university than they do against him. At any rate, Khan had a lot of support on campus; the article says that about a hundred students and faculty held a teach-in on his behalf last month.

Senatorial malpractice: habeas corpus attacked, November 14, 2005: As is well known, the Senate first rejected Senator Bingaman’s detainee bill by 45-54, and then passed a Graham/Levin/Kyl compromise amendment apparently undoing the worst of the Graham court-stripping bill, but still leaving habeas corpus rights for detainees in shambles — if only because the net legal effect is apparently unclear even to legal scholars like Marty Lederman. As Hilzoy (“Obsidian Wings”) wrote that day of the fourteen “nay” votes, “If you look at the list–Baucus, Biden, Bingaman, Byrd, Dayton, Durbin, Feingold, Harkin, Kennedy, Lautenberg, Leahy, Rockefeller, Sarbanes, Specter–it’s clearly a protest vote by senators who simply would not put their names on any bill to strip habeas.”

Hilzoy concluded her and Katherine’s series on the issue with “Requiem“, which takes up the details of the Adel case mentioned in the update to my post, based on the transcript of his hearing before Judge James Robertson of the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia. Mr. Adel was a Uighur (Western China) Muslim turned in to American forces by a bounty hunter. It turned out that the government kept its finding that Adel was a noncombatant a secret from defense lawyers and the court, while keeping said defendant incommunicado and often chained to a floor in Guantanamo. Apparently their difficulties in finding a country to take in Mr. Adel outweighs his human right to be free — sometime, manana, whenever:

“THE COURT: Counsel, you said that — you used the word ‘soon’ to describe when you thought that this might be resolved. Define ‘soon’.

MR. HENRY: I don’t know when that is. I apologize if I misspoke. I mean, I think I said ‘soon’ in kind of the hopeful sense of the word.”

Why Mr. Adel isn’t entitled to an apology, a permanent visa to the U.S. or U.S. citizenship (if he’ll have it), reparations, and freedom yesterday is not clear to me.

Fidelio, May 24, 2003 — When I wrote about Beethoven’s opera celebrating the liberation of prisoners from a repressive political system, I concluded:

Beethoven’s story of political oppression and liberation couldn’t help but remind me and, I’m guessing, most of the audience of the events of the past months in Iraq: oppressors toppled, political prisoners freed, torments, disappearances, and “prison cleansings” ended. Self-congratulation on the order of the final scene in Fidelio isn’t warranted for Americans about Iraq, at least not yet. But Beethoven’s opera was a stirring reminder for one audience, for one night, that ending repression and liberating its victims is a fundamental triumph for all mankind.

So much for Americans congratulating themselves about that. Mark Kleiman’s co-blogger Michael O’Hare saw “Fidelio” last weekend, and remarked:

…the last time I saw it, perhaps a decade ago, it was about the kind of thing bad people in foreign, benighted, and afflicted lands did to their freedom fighters and those who spoke truth to power. Tonight, when the prisoners staggered out of their cells into the sun in Act I, ragged, haggard, and beat-up, all I could think of was how many of the wretched oubliettes around the world, with ragged, haggard, and beat-up people in them, have an American Flag or a CIA compass over the door, and God knows what horrors being practiced inside.

I’d hesitate to call many of our enemies in Iraq “freedom fighters” (and you’ll note that’s not really what O’Hare does either) but I’d certainly also hesitate to call Abu Ghraib etcetera “freedom.” Like O’Hare, I miss being proud of my country.

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EDIT, 12/6: Replaced “Judge X” with “Judge James Robertson of the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia” (blush), and added a link to the transcript.

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