“YOUR TACTICS AID TERRORISTS”: In a stinging speech, Attorney General John Ashcroft questions the patriotism of his critics.
IN A STAGGERING DISPLAY OF HUBRIS ON DEC. 6, 2001, ASHCROFT CATEGORICALLY REJECTED QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS TRAMPLING OF INDIVIDUAL FREEDOMS AND CONSTITUTIONALLY GUARAN- TEED RIGHTS. “TO THOSE WHO PIT AMERICANS AGAINST IMMIGRANTS, CITIZENS AGAINST NONCITIZENS, THOSE WHO SCARE PEACE-LOVING PEOPLE WITH PHANTOMS OF LOST LIBERTY, MY MESSAGE IS THIS: YOUR TACTICS ONLY AID TERRORISTS...
The administration has fought these court orders as well, going so far as to get a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, while awaiting the final outcome of its appeals.
The ACLU fought the establishment of military tribunals for suspected terrorists, charging that the administration has not shown that the constitutional jury system would not allow for the prosecution of accused terror- ists. Tribunals would give one man, the president of the United States, undue discretion over the lives of defendants, it said, in violation of American and international standards of justice. Military tribunals could use secret evidence and would effectively suspend the writ of habeas corpus, a centuries-old legal procedure protecting citizens from being held illegally by the government. No president has the right to do that without the approval of Congress.
A “Military Commission Order” issued on March 21, 2002, in response to concerns raised by the ACLU and others, does provide for the presumption of innocence and a military defense lawyer in
military tribunals, and requires a unanimous verdict for any death sentences. But serious problems remain. There is no provision for impartiality and independence; ultimate con- trol over the proceeding is left to the presi- dent, the secretary of defense or their designee; and there is no provision for review by any civilian court.
The ACLU brought legal challenges on behalf of groups that were barred from holding public protests. These have included School of the Americas (SOA) Watch, which opposes the training of foreign soldiers in schools operated by the U.S. military in Colombia and at Fort Benning, Ga.; and the Coalition for Peace and Justice, which wanted to hold a peace rally in Pleasantville, N.J.
The Georgia ACLU sued the City of Columbus, Ga. when officials tried to bar SOA Watch from holding its protest march, an annual tradition, at the entrance to Fort Benning last October. The city cited increased need for security after Sept. 11. But federal Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth ordered the city to allow the protest to go forward in accordance with President Bush’s charge for Americans to get back to their lives. As Faircloth saw it, his job was “to protect the American way of life,” which in Columbus included the annual SOA Watch march.
The ACLU of New Jersey threatened to sue the City of Pleasantville for trying to bar a post-Sept. 11 rally by the Coalition of Peace and Justice under an overly restrictive local