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Tough on Terror, or Tough on Liberty?

By StewedSquirrels in Culture
Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 09:52:59 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

Reports, including this one from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on a study on the prevalence of terror-related crime hit the wire services several days ago but have received relatively little attention in broad circles. The new study, done by the TRAC research center at Syracuse University, shows that federal investigators have recommended the prosecution of an estimated 6,400 people on terrorism charges since September 11, 2001. Out of 6,400 cases, just 879 have been convicted. Of these, 184 have been convicted of "international terrorism" and the remainder for related charges. Overall, only 123 received significant sentences (over one year in prison) and only 23 were sentenced to five years or more. Also, convictions for "international terrorism" had a median duration of just 14 days, indicating that the vast majority of these convictions were for very minor crimes.

The linked story quotes Charles Pena, director of a libertarian group. "It bothers me that we would round up whole bunches of people without an idea about whether they really are a terrorist . . . It certainly is valid to ask whether the whole war on terror is successful."

While the DOJ frequently cites high numbers such as the 6,400 cases sent to prosecutors so far, to bolster their new "tough on terrorism" stance, the frightening reality is that the numbers of individuals who are eventually found not guilty or who are released due to lack of evidence is extremely high. According to the study, the median sentence for someone convicted of crimes related to international terrorism was just 14 days. In this study, over 86% of those recommended for prosecution, have not been found guilty and over 98% of them have not received a sentence longer than one year. In addition, the majority of the cases resulting in longer senteces were classified as "domestic terrorism" and included a case of five KKK members involved in harassment and destruction of property. The leader of that group was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Also, a case in Georgia involved a man sentenced to 6 1/2 years for detonating a pipe bomb in his girlfriend's empty car.

These sentencing statistics sit in sharp contrast to the numbers cited by the Justice Department for other crimes prosecuted by federal agents, which have a median sentence of 24 months (cited in TRAC's study- linked above). The report points out, "because of various sentencing guidelines, federal judges today have relatively little discretion in the sentences they impose . . . as a result of this reality, the sentences in this and all other kinds of criminal cases are largely determined by the investigators who collect the evidence and the prosecutors who decide the actual charges that will be brought against each individual." Clearly, the "terrorism" charge is often used as a descriptor to lay on other minor charges, instead of being a real indicator of terrorism activity, however; new terrorism laws allow the prosecutors and law enforcement more leeway in collecting evidence and bringing charges if the case is deemed to have its root in "terrorism" activities.

If these numbers are accurate, federal agents have attempted to prosecute seven individuals on terror related charges for every one that has been found guilty so far. This also means that they have attempted to prosecute fifty two people for every serious criminal convicted in a "terror-related" case, even if many of these charges are not related to terror activity that these laws were intended to curb.

Report does note that the numbers of convictions will grow somewhat, since some of the 6,400 cases cited are still pending legal action. However, even under the assumption that the number of convictions will rise to double what this study indicated (significantly more than half have already been processed), it is clear that the number of presumably innocent Americans recommended for prosecution by federal agents is still alarmingly high. Despite this, law enforcement continues to push for more control and the ability to cast even broader nets in their hunt for terrorist threats.

Although good statistics on other types of crimes seem to be hard to find, some are available on the Internet. For example, Alaska published a summary of serious crimes several years ago. This and other evidence suggests that the percentage of cases that go to trial in other crimes such as assault is closer to 80% and the rate of those convicted after being recommended for prosecution is closer to 50%. The rate of acquittal or dismissal in assault cases may be less than 2% and definitely less than 5% according to Alaska statistics as well as others on the Internet. This is in stark contrast to these terrorism cases where only one third are ever brought to trial and the dismissal or acquittal rate is substantially higher (around 28% according to these statistics).

With these numbers coming to light, it is apparent that expanded law enforcement powers applying to "suspected" terrorists are frequently intruding into the lives of innocent people. If anyone has ever had to defend themselves in court, whether rightfully or wrongfully accused, it can be very expensive, both economically and emotionally. Even if they are found innocent or the case is dismissed, the privacy of innocent Americans has already been violated by expanded law enforcement powers and overzealous law enforcement agencies.

Some of the questions posed by the TRAC study are:

  • Are the right people being targeted? Or have the FBI and other agencies adapted a general round up policy?
  • Does the current approach of prosecuting a large number of individuals for crimes which frequently result in little or no prison -- apparent in the data -- reduce the chance of terrorism?


Voxel dot net
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Related Links
o this one from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
o new study
o TRAC research center
o summary of serious crimes
o Also by StewedSquirrels

Display: Sort:
Tough on Terror, or Tough on Liberty? | 111 comments (83 topical, 28 editorial, 2 hidden)
I'm not afraid yet (2.66 / 12) (#7)
by WayneConrad on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 02:40:23 PM EST

Picking on innocent people, while bothersome, doesn't make me afraid.

What would make me afraid would be if everyone they picked on were found guilty.  That'd be a clear sign that the trail was a mere USSR-style formality.

Judicial system (3.00 / 14) (#19)
by StewedSquirrels on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 05:06:17 PM EST

I would be tempted to agree with you, but I've seen first hand how devistating it can be to even be accused.

Those accused, even if the case is dropped or found not guilty, they have to hire a lawyer, take time off work and expend effort and quite a bit of nail-biting before they're "free"

I've been there.  I was falsely accused of something awhile ago and it cost me nearly $7000 to defend myself and go through the judicial motions.

After a rash of bogus "law rangling" by the prosecutor and several hearings and other such things, he decided to drop the case.

By that time, I had spent a weekend in jail, $7000 and at least a week of my vacation time from work in order to defend myself for something I didn't even know happened (let alone did I participate in it).

This is why I crusade against the government's law-wrangling abilities.

In Norway or Sweden or the Netherlands, the state would be liable for my court costs and for damages relating to missed time at work and wrongful imprisonment.  Because the case was dropped here, the government is under no such obligation.   I would have to hire ANOTHER lawyer to try to get them in a civil suit and I would have only a marginal chance of winning, so I'm forced to just eat my losses and hope it never happens again (to anyone)


[ Parent ]

Figures for the UK (3.00 / 6) (#8)
by Stephen Turner on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 02:48:56 PM EST

Here are the figures for the UK (from the BBC last week): 529 arrests since the Terrorism Act 2000 came into force in February 2001. 77 people have been charged of whom two have been convicted and two acquitted — the rest haven't yet come to trial.

Wow... (none / 1) (#41)
by StewedSquirrels on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 01:40:26 PM EST

That's scary.

77 people charged (arrested?) and only 4 have gone to trial in almost 3 years??  and half of those were innocent??

Yikes!!  You know once your'e arrested, you're stuck in prison unless you can make bond.  Not too many poor or new immigrants will be able to make bond.  Are they still in prison??   eesh


[ Parent ]

Innocent? (none / 3) (#44)
by gzt on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 02:09:52 PM EST

Acquitted doesn't mean innocent, silly.

[ Parent ]
In the eyes of the law it does. (none / 1) (#47)
by Hektor on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 03:53:48 PM EST

And in most cases it should in the eyes of the public.

Imagine this - someone accuses you of being a child molester. You get picked up by the police ... do you think you'll ever be clear of those charges?

[ Parent ]

No... (none / 0) (#48)
by gzt on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 04:13:08 PM EST

...in the eyes of the law it means "not guilty". The law doesn't care whether you're innocent or not if you're acquitted.

As for the public, whatever.

Here's my point: the man was complaining half of those who went to trial were innocent. This indicates only that he is a fool he doesn't know a single thing about justice.

[ Parent ]

As I said (2.60 / 5) (#51)
by StewedSquirrels on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 06:15:06 PM EST

As I said in another reply, one of the reasons I'm adamant about limiting law enforcement power is because I was arrested, jailed and prosecuted for and event that I wasn't even aware happened (let alone did I have any involvement).

It cost me several thousand $$, some time in jail and endless headaches (and constant verbal abuse by police and prison guards) before the case was dropped and a different individual was picked up for the crime.

If the other guy hadn't have been picked up with more evidence against him, I may have been close to being convicted, simply because I couldn't PROVE myself innocent.  Everyone except the judge seemed to assume I was guilty and I got treated as such.  Fortunately for me, the judge looked at the case and dismissed it.

Frankly, I don't appreciate being called a fool, when I'm quite sure I have more first hand expereince with this type of persecution than you.

'nuff said.


[ Parent ]

+1FP (none / 0) (#56)
by gzt on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 07:20:52 PM EST

You're right, I was being a bit arrogant, and I apologize. However, it's still wrong to say half of those tried were innocent. They may have been, and some of those convicted may have been innocent, even, but it's also possible that those acquitted did commit the crimes.

[ Parent ]
AFAIK... (none / 2) (#59)
by TheNewWazoo on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 08:02:32 PM EST

It's one of the cornerstones of the US judicial system that those accused are assumed "innocent until proven guilty". Those who are acquitted are not proven guilty. Thus, we must assume them to be innocent. It's this kangaroo court of public opinion that most disturbs me, since it's nothing contrary to popular thought when the executive branch operates in the same way.


[ Parent ]

It means... (none / 1) (#60)
by gzt on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 08:16:40 PM EST

...we legally treat them as innocent. Whether they did it or not, however, is an entirely unrelated matter.

[ Parent ]
I think the sad issue (none / 2) (#62)
by StewedSquirrels on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 10:24:23 PM EST

I think the sad issue is that we often don't tread people as innocent until proven guilty.  In fact, that seems to be reserved for insignificant cases in the scheme of things.

But we could argue all day whether we want to treat people... say murderers as innocent until proven guilty.

My brain says "yes" my gut said "wait a minute!"  or is it the other way around? ...


[ Parent ]

innocent (none / 2) (#69)
by pyro9 on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 11:44:00 AM EST

It is understandable that we must make resonable accomodation to the suspect status of a suspect, however, we go too far.

We cannot simply tell the person suspected of a violent crime 'this is your court date, you're free to go' at the scene of the crime and call it good.

On the other hand, unless or until convicted, a prisoner, as an innocent, deserves comfortable and pleasant accomodations rather than a prison cell with a degrading lack of privacy and the minimum of ammenities. In all fairness, it should be much like a hotel stay except that you're not free to check out. Anything else flies in the face of the presumption of innocence. A good model of this would be 'would you treate a sequestered juror that way?' If not, you're somehow presuming guilt.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Cultural difference (none / 2) (#68)
by pyro9 on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 11:30:01 AM EST

The poster calling the half found 'not guilty' innocent may have been applying the U.S. constitutinal definition.

As the defendants were not proven guilty in a court of law, they are therefore innocent due to the presumption of 'innocent until proven guilty' under U.S. law.

Of course, since they are U.K. citizens, the same presumption may not apply.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Hmm (none / 0) (#74)
by gzt on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 12:35:42 PM EST

I'm speaking as an American. The problem with that terminology is that it's confusingly imprecise, especially when one wants to complain about innocent people being prosecuted.

[ Parent ]
Some modifications made... (none / 0) (#11)
by StewedSquirrels on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 02:56:49 PM EST

I found some statistics on other crimes.

I also toned down the wording and bold-face emphasis in places.


Too broad? (none / 2) (#15)
by gzt on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 03:31:01 PM EST

I find this study quite comforting.

In what way? (2.85 / 7) (#17)
by StewedSquirrels on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 03:52:08 PM EST

In what way?

I sent the link to this to a friend of mine who has never heard of K5. He's Ethopian living in the US.

He said "wow, that's amazing, I had a friend who was arrested on terrorism charges simply because he's been to Africa three times this year and wrote a paper about the US government abusing terrorism legislation"   He spent 3 weeks in prison before they released him and refused to comment on why or what happened with the case."

I don't know the truth behind the story first hand, but I have no reason not to trust my friend.

I think it flys in the face of everything this country stands for.  But that's just my opinion I guess.


[ Parent ]

Well, the specifics... (2.71 / 7) (#20)
by gzt on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 05:17:34 PM EST

...of the cases aren't comforting, but the stats aren't bad. I'd be more worried if we had high conviction rates for those hundreds prosecuted. Given the amount of concern many had previously that there would be thousands of people jailed for decades for relatively minor infractions, this relatively low conviction rate with relatively low sentencing seems to suggest strict standards of evidence are required to jail somebody for terrorism.

[ Parent ]
Yes, I agree (2.85 / 7) (#22)
by StewedSquirrels on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 05:57:35 PM EST

I have believed that for the most part, the judicial system is still intact and accountable to the constitution and to usually doing "the right thing"

The fact is that the recent legislation has been moving to take more and more power away from judges and into the hands of law enforcement themselves and some cases the legislative body, with little judicial oversight.

Checks and balances is the key.  Everyone seems to be making moves to get rid of these types of checks.


[ Parent ]

Good Point. (none / 0) (#38)
by t0rment on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 12:07:24 PM EST

You are right about "Checks and balances is the key." Judges should have a right to strike down laws that contradict the consititution.

. - = [ t 0 r m e n t ] = - .

Anyone can become angry--that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way; this is not easy.

- Aristotle
[ Parent ]
Too right. (none / 3) (#55)
by kmcrober on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 07:08:39 PM EST

That's what makes Guantanamo so disturbing.  The administration essentially claims, "Look, this isn't America, it is Cuba.  We don't have to abide by the normal rules in Cuba."  It's a very troubling argument, because it's hard to see where the limits are.

I can't wait to see how the Supremes deal with it.  I'd like to think they the administration's primary reasoning down very quickly, but I'm not sure they'll go so far as to shut down the camps.  I think they would have acted more quickly if there were the votes on the Court for that, but I'm just guessing.

The breakdown should be fascinating.  I'm not enough of a Court-watcher to have a strong impression of the fringe justices, but I'm sure it will be close.  Scalia, as always, is a great friend of the powerful and has no patience for the downtrodden, unless they are on his good side - Christians, economic producers, etc.  Rehnquist, while far too conservative for my tastes, has a much stronger judicial ethic.  I don't like his stance on federalism, but I have a lot of respect for it because it's so consistent.  I'd like to think that his distrust of unchecked federal power will make him very leery of Gitmo, but I'm not sure.

Thomas, of course, will do what Scalia tells him to and sign off on his opinion.  If he does a good job, maybe Scalia will let him write his own opinion to show the Court what a big boy he is.  If Scalia isn't available, he'll let Rehnquist tell him what the right decision is, and if they're both absent...  Man, I don't know.  Maybe just sit in his office and cry?

[ Parent ]

Very interesting stats (2.66 / 18) (#21)
by Persol on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 05:20:24 PM EST

One of my friends who was still in college last year was out on a date at a chinese restauraunt in Philadelphia's China Town. In the middle of dinner the restaurant was raided, the two of the were held at gun point, their bags search, and threatened that they would be charged with terrorism. He said something about civil rights, and one of the female agents responded 'they dont apply here'.

The worst part, it had nothing to do with terrorism. It was suspected (correctly) that drugs were being sold out of the back room. They just threw the terrorism threat on top.

That's what these statistics say to me. Terrrorism isn't what most of these people are guilty of. It is being used as a threat to intimidate people, and possibly get them to confess to lesser crimes.

I move to vote.

MangaPug.Com - A community for manga artists.

Vote!! (none / 0) (#23)
by StewedSquirrels on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 05:58:42 PM EST

Go for the vote.  I like the article as it reads now.  Thanks to everyone for the advice and assistance.


[ Parent ]

Drugs and Terrorism (none / 2) (#29)
by Tyler Durden on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 12:10:55 AM EST

Didn't you see those commercials with the two guys talking about how drugs are used to support terrorism?  

Questioning your government is unpatriotic.  Go turn yourself in for treason.  

Jesus Christ, EVERYONE is a troll here at k5, even the editors, even rusty! -- LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Haven't I heard this story a 100 times over... (none / 2) (#42)
by TunkeyMicket on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 02:08:02 PM EST

...I figure we'll see it on Snopes soon enough.

Shame on anyone who +3'd his comment.
Chris "TunkeyMicket" Watford
[ Parent ]

Yeah it was a AlterNet article (none / 1) (#45)
by TunkeyMicket on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 02:21:41 PM EST

And it was in NY not Philly.
Chris "TunkeyMicket" Watford
[ Parent ]
Perhaps because it has happened 100 times over? (none / 0) (#54)
by Persol on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 06:52:09 PM EST


MangaPug.Com - A community for manga artists.
[ Parent ]
That would seem unlikely (none / 1) (#58)
by Simon Kinahan on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 07:37:11 PM EST

Especially since every variant of this tale I've heard has very similar details, and I live an ocean away. Much more likely this is an urban myth, constantly retold in the first person because it sounds better. If it had really happened hundreds of times, I have enough confidence in foreign correspondents in the US, if not the domestic press, that they would have picked it up.


If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
it may be a myth (none / 2) (#63)
by auraslip on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 01:24:43 AM EST

But thats what liberals do. They create stories, movies, songs, and art that illustrate a situation.
Just because it may not have happened exactly as the story was read today, it is most likley a culmination of differant wrong doings.
Taken together it is a very cohesive and moving story of how the goverment is doing wrong.

[ Parent ]
It's not just liberals. (none / 1) (#76)
by aphrael on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 01:30:02 PM EST

Any good politician tells a story. Reagan was *superb* at it; the 'welfare queen' was a myth, but it worked, because it accurately summarized what people feared was happening.

[ Parent ]
Sounds like Rush Limbaugh (none / 2) (#98)
by John Asscroft on Mon Dec 15, 2003 at 01:54:17 AM EST

and the way he makes up "feminazis" and makes up stories about liberals rather than addressing the concerns and policies of those who disagree with his political views.

I support this whole-heartedly. Us Busheviks must stick together against the great godless Liberal threat to America. If we allow the liberals to actually make us discuss ISSUES, we lose. So we must keep up the pressure, calling them ugly names like "traitor" and "story-teller" rather than addressing ugly "facts" that they bring up, and wait for the day when we'll be able to round them all up and put them in the "Free Speech Zones" at the Nevada Test Site, where they can practice that ungodly "Free Speech" on the cacti rather than confusing honest God-fearing people with those ugly "fact" things they're always spouting.

Good Christian people don't need facts, because God tells us what to do. I know this is true, because God told me so.

-- John Asscroft, Attorney General, United States of America.
We must destroy freedom to save it from the terrorists who want to destroy freedom. Else the terrorists have won.
[ Parent ]

Move to vote? (none / 1) (#27)
by StewedSquirrels on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 07:27:12 PM EST

I'm satisfied with the story how it stands and would be open to it being put to vote.

Thanks for the suggestions!

Stewed Squirrels

Please use editorial comments for this (nt) (none / 0) (#109)
by Merc on Wed Dec 17, 2003 at 07:13:02 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Yes! (2.00 / 4) (#28)
by readpunk on Thu Dec 11, 2003 at 09:30:37 PM EST

America is like ssssoooo totally getting all those terrorists. I mean, like, why do they want to hurt us and stuff? They are like so totally lame.

Added more stats, better links (none / 1) (#36)
by StewedSquirrels on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 12:06:03 PM EST

I added some more stats and a few better links, including a link to the TRAC study itself and the TRAC website.

I also put more statistics about other areas of FBI sentencing for comparison.


So what? (none / 2) (#52)
by My Other Account Is A Hulver on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 06:19:56 PM EST

We'd have got most of them for Driving Whilst A Minority anyway.

Provide figures that show that overall arrests and convictions for political offences (i.e. drugs) haven't gone down, and we'll talk.

I believe drduck is a genuine account, and I don't delete him because I'm a hypocrite. - rusty

Of particular note is.. (2.20 / 5) (#57)
by thelizman on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 07:27:24 PM EST

...that so many are actually released. It is typically the contention of the extremist left and libertarian right (for differing reasons) that people were being falsely persecuted, and that kangaroo courts would unfairly jail those like Mike Hawash and Jose Padilla (1, 2). Granted, the mere act of arrest and charge and trial is a tremendous burden, but the justice system isn't about convenience. I think the fact that so many have been let go is a sign that the system is actually working.

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
Money talks (3.00 / 4) (#65)
by StewedSquirrels on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 01:49:14 AM EST

<i>he mere act of arrest and charge and trial is a tremendous burden, but the justice system isn't about convenience.</i>

The only thing I'll say to this is.... money talks.

When I was wrongly charged for a crime, I was damn lucky that I had $7k cash spare or I would not have been able to bond out of prison for the 45 days between being charged and going to court.  In that time period, I would have lost my job and likely been evicted from my apartment, thus losing all of my posessions.  I would not have been able to hire a real lawyer.  In fact, I was in prison for several days and before my arraignment hearing, I was provided access to a public defender for THREE MINUTES, not a second more.

Fortunately, I was capable of coming up with $3k cash for bond AND able to have a friend get it for me and bring it to the jail.

I have since made an agreement to keep an attorney on retainer and provide him access to my money and other important property in the case of such things happening again (though I like to think it's a very remote possibility).

If I were charged with a felony, I would not have been able to make bond.  I WOULD have lost my job and my housing and most of my posessions and I would have had much more difficulty retaining an attorney to prove my innocence.

Our legal system is bullshit and comes down to the statement "money talks".  OJ gets off while innocent poor people sit in a cell waiting to get 20 minutes with a public defender in the hopes they can prove themselves innocent.


[ Parent ]

money talks. (1.00 / 5) (#66)
by thelizman on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 02:58:49 AM EST

"money talks" is a bullshit argument. I'm sure your anectdotal evidence is somehow proof that the legal system is an oppressive regime out to get you.

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Proof? (none / 1) (#67)
by StewedSquirrels on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 04:16:08 AM EST

Well, I don't claim it to be absolute proof.

I do claim in my example that the only reason I did not literally have my life literally destroyed byu an overzealous prosecutor with a bug up his butt was because I was readily able to come up with fairly substantial sums of cash (substantial for the average middle to lower class American).

I am not the only case of this.

Does that mean the system is always wrong?  Nope.

However, there are many systems around the world where this is not an issue.

Should a prosecutor have the power to rip apart the life of someone with little more than circumstantial evidence and a guess (simply because they can't afford the defend themselves)?  I don't think so, yet I've been on the wrong end of that one too many times.

So I have anicdotal evidence...  A single case can disprove any argument.   I guess all that I disproved was "the legal system is as fair as possible for those accused by the state".


[ Parent ]

logic (none / 3) (#72)
by pyro9 on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 12:06:21 PM EST

Simple logic can be applied here.

The assertion that being imprisoned without recourse for 45 days or more can cost your job and your apartment isn't that hard to acept is it?

We know that the way one can avoid that is to put up a cash bond. In the absense of cash, one can offer something of much greater value to a bail bondsman to get the cash. In the absense of cash or valuable property, there is no bond to put up. With me so far?

In the absense of that bond, you will stay in jail for 45 days or more when accused of a felony. Thus, without ash, you are subject toi loss of job and or apartment and belongings without recourse.

Simple reasoning is sufficient, and anecdote is just iceing for the cake.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Logic (none / 3) (#85)
by thelizman on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 05:36:17 PM EST

"The assertion that being imprisoned without recourse for 45 days or more can cost your job and your apartment isn't that hard to acept is it?"
Logically, you cannot posit a consequent or an incident as part of oa precedent. In short, the legal system didn't cancel your lease nor did it fire you from your job. That is the result of an employer who is not understanding, and your inability to put back savings equal to a months rent.

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
In other words (none / 1) (#86)
by Ogygus on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 06:15:32 PM EST

The only people worth treating justly are those with the finacial wherewithal to purchase justice?

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
not directly (none / 1) (#90)
by pyro9 on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 07:29:37 PM EST

It is true that the legal system didn't directly fire the accused or evict the accused, but it certainly DID cause those things to happen. The legal system itself recognizes that form of damage in civil law as 'consequential damages'. That is damages that a 'reasonable person' would anticipate as a result of their tortious actions. Prosecutions where more than 80% are not found guilty is reasonably considered 'reckless disreguard' for the wellbeing of citizens.

By your logic, if I cause an accident that leaves you unable to perform your job, your loss of income is not my fault, it's your bosses fault for not having pity on you and paying you anyway. That's simply not how it works.

As for not having a month's rent saved up, you might be surprised to learn that MANY people do not have that much in savings.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Clearly A Different Case (none / 1) (#94)
by thelizman on Sun Dec 14, 2003 at 08:30:01 AM EST

if I cause an accident that leaves you unable to perform your job, your loss of income is not my fault,
Unrelated circumstances. You committed an act of criminal negligence resulting in personal injury. The government is right to arrest you if it suspects you have committed a crime. You do not have the right to cripple me in a car accident.

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
reasonable suspicion (none / 2) (#95)
by pyro9 on Sun Dec 14, 2003 at 10:16:36 AM EST

Now that I am established as the liable person, let's say I pull out my diplomatic papers and invoke immunity. I will not be expected to pay a cent. Did your loss of income suddenly become your boss's responsability or yours? My immunity from liability does not change the facts, it just makes you screwed.

Simply having the 'right' to cause consequential damages does not eliminate those damages. It does not mean that the otherwise consequential damages simply go away or become someone else's fault (unless the arrestee actually did commit a crime).

The real question is what is the government's responsability wrt those damages. As the government is supposed to function for our benefit rather than the other way around, we might likely conclude that it's responsability is to minimize that damage.

From a standpoint of checks and balances, blanket immunity from consequential damages is certainly not the way to check and balance anything.

An 'interesting' problem that has been going on for some time (but only recently made the local news) is the frequency where people spend more time in jail awaiting trial than the maximum sentence for the alleged crime would call for. They recieved no compensation whatsoever, even if found not guilty. I imagine that if law enforcement and the judicial system was potentially liable for these damages, they'd think twice about thoroughly screwing up people's lives over a misdemeanor.

Note that those with more money are immune to much of the harm from a misdemenor offence. They will likely enough make bail (either cash or through a bondsman with house or car as collateral) and go to work the next day. Even if their lawyer who has more than 3 minutes to spend with them doesn't get the charges dropped, they will be found not guilty and released from bond.

Note how the simple presence or absence of adequate net worth made the difference between annoyance and destitution. Seems it was all about money.

It's not as if the rest of us don't somehow end up paying anyway. Send the message to a group of people that innocent or guilty, they're screwed, and the police become the enemy even to law abiding members of that group. When law enforcement becomes the enemy, social breakdown will soon follow. Social breakdown is expensive.

Returning to the 'reasonable person', can you think of anyone who upon losing everything they owned and left homeless and unemployed due to a mistaken suspicion would NOT feel entitled to restitution? (Note, I said feel entitled to, not 'expect')

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
So naturally (2.75 / 4) (#71)
by pyro9 on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 12:00:04 PM EST

You don't object to checking into your local jail (right now) so you can have your trial.

The system is NOT working. A nuclear reactor that goes to an emergency status 3 times a day but due to failsafe mechanisms hasn't melted down cannot be said to 'work'.

In the same way, the release of most of the suspects shows that the checks and balances are reasonably functional in the face of faulty law enforcement. Ideally, the checks and balances shouldn't even come into play. Realistically, we know they will come into play. In this case, it's happening MUCH too frequently.

What would you think of a spam filter where 80% of the emails flagged are legitimate (that is not spam)? How useful would that be? Meanwhile, obviously, we can't know haw many genuine terrorists are NOT going to trial. However, given the conspicuous absence of daily terrorist attacks, it can't be that many.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Re: So naturally (none / 0) (#106)
by Peach on Tue Dec 16, 2003 at 02:02:23 PM EST

The future isn't what it used to be

No, but it will be some day.

[ Parent ]
It works by degrees. . . (2.75 / 4) (#91)
by Fantastic Lad on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 10:17:51 PM EST

Fascism NEVER erupts fully formed into being. It is ALWAYS a creeping process.

Take a liberty, let people get used ot it. Take another, let them get used to that.

And the populace can always be counted on to rationalize each step, while the small number of dissenters are laughed down because what they are complaining about is so very disturbing. People would rather sleep than deal.

THINK about it. The authorities are arresting people without just cause, and they are doing so at new and unprecedneted levels.

"But that's okay, because look, for now they're letting most of them go. See? Everything is okay. I don't mind the frog-water being this hot. I can get used to it."

In Nazi Germany, a common recounting is that everybody saw it coming, and they saw it grow by degrees, and they all behaved exactly the way Americans are acting. One other guy around here on K5 beligerantly told me that until he saw brownshirts smashing shop windows and attacking citizens, he doesn't want to hear about it.

The problem is that once things advance to those sorts of levels, it's too late.


[ Parent ]

We're working on that (none / 1) (#97)
by John Asscroft on Mon Dec 15, 2003 at 01:49:09 AM EST

Too many of these terrorists are getting off on jury trials held before a jury of their peers. So shortly we're gong to classify them all as "enemy combatants" and have the case heard in military tribunals rather than those iffy jury trials (what were the founders of our country thinking anyhow, to subject our Christian nation to the whims of ordinary people rather than allowing good Christian people like me to decide who is innocent and who is guilty?!). As soon as the Supreme Court OK's us holding Jose Padilla as an "enemy combatant", we will open the gates of our first camp for "enemy combatants" at the Nevada Test Site, and soon enough we'll end this silliness of terrorists (I know they're terrorists, because God told me so) being found innocent by their peers.

-- John Asscroft, Attorney General, United States of America.

We must destroy freedom to save it from the terrorists who want to destroy freedom. Else the terrorists have won.
[ Parent ]

WMD in Iraq (none / 0) (#61)
by Peaker on Fri Dec 12, 2003 at 10:17:10 PM EST

The fact none were found, despite the huge interest the US government had in finding them -- indicates great sincerety on their behalf.

or (none / 0) (#64)
by auraslip on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 01:27:30 AM EST

they found one or two smalls labs. But they figured; unless they had a HUGE amount of not only proof of "wmds" but enough to provide justification for war, that people would assume that it was planted.
[ Parent ]
1 or 2 small labs (none / 0) (#70)
by pyro9 on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 11:49:50 AM EST

One or two small labs would hardly be justification for invading a country in defiance of the U.N. A sweep of the U.S. would probably find more than that just from nut cases and inadvisable hobbiest experimentation (arguably just a subset of the first case :-)

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
In definace of the UN? (none / 2) (#89)
by godix on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 07:17:52 PM EST

Where the hell did you pick up that lie from? The UN did not pass a single resolution saying America couldn't invade Iraq. To this day there still hasn't been a resolution passed, even a non-binding resolution, condeming Americas actions. What America did was act without the UN's approval and that's no big deal, every country in the world does actions every single day that the UN hasn't specifically approved.

We did however act in definace of Germany, France, and Russia. But then again Germany, France, or Russia have never been given authority over US actions so it's not like there's any pressing reason their wishes should dictate US action.

Anyway, you missed one major subsection of American society that would have more biological weapons than we've found in Iraq: medical colleges. Any decent medical school has more refining capability than Iraq.

Well, at least I shall die as I have lived. Completely surrounded by morons.
- Black Mage[ Parent ]

Reality check? (none / 1) (#101)
by trezor on Mon Dec 15, 2003 at 06:49:56 AM EST

I quote you:

    The UN did not pass a single resolution saying America couldn't invade Iraq.

Just like the UN never has passed a resolution saying that for instance America can't invade Iran, Egypt, Brazil, Chile (and any other coutry in the world) there is a reason these resolutions don't exist:

You'd expect from civilized coutries that they don't go about invading other countries. That they respect national sovereignity.

That the UN didn't pass a resolution denying the US to invade Iraq, well... That's because it's obvious you shouldn't. The UN would pass a resolution alloving invation, not vice verse.

    What America did was act without the UN's approval and that's no big deal

No it isn't. UN is an organ where conflicts are to be solved peacefully if possible, and thus ensuring (as much as possible) world-peace.

When the worlds most powerfull nations start bypassing UN because it's convinient, you are practically speaking asking for international anarchy.

    every country in the world does actions every single day that the UN hasn't specifically approved.

Exactly how many of these "actions" involve invation of other countries? (Just for this once, I'll keep Isreal out of the conversation)

Excuse me for saying it, but you sir, are a fucktard. (But it may just happen that you are sorrounded by morons nevertheless. I wouldn't know.)

Richard Dean Anderson porn? - Now spread the news

[ Parent ]
UN Membership (none / 0) (#108)
by Merc on Wed Dec 17, 2003 at 07:04:06 PM EST

Means agreeing to certain restrictions, including not waging aggressive wars. When something like that is a condition of membership, you don't really need to forbid it on every occasion.

[ Parent ]
Good point <nt> (none / 0) (#77)
by aphrael on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 01:31:11 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Fallacy of Ambiguity (none / 2) (#73)
by nymbol on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 12:08:32 PM EST

The tail end of this article is laced with a bad bad fallacy of argument. Even if they are found innocent or the case is dismissed, the privacy of innocent Americans has already been violated by expanded law enforcement powers and overzealous law enforcement agencies. There, and in other passages, you make the translation from "not guilty" to innocent. A court cannot find a defendant innocent. To assume that because a defedant was found "not guilty" that they must be innocent is incorrect. And you can fill in the blanks as to why, I hope.

Excuse me? (3.00 / 5) (#75)
by aphrael on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 01:28:00 PM EST

It's a basic principle of the American legal culture that someone who has not been proven guilty can, and should, be assumed to be innocent. That's the entire point to a trial: the people who suspect you have one chance to prove their suspicions and, if they are unable to do so, then the rest of us can assuem they were wrong.

[ Parent ]
Uh, no. (none / 0) (#78)
by nymbol on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 02:51:00 PM EST

A not guilty verdict simply means that there was no enough evidence to convict a defendant of an alleged crime beyond reasonable doubt. That it, a verdict of "not guilty", is widely accepted to be equivalent to innocence is irrelevant. To claim that because it is widely accepted that it must be true is another fallacious argument of Appeal to Authority--the authority here being tradition, or the public. Sorry.

[ Parent ]
Well, see (none / 1) (#79)
by aphrael on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 02:55:53 PM EST

there are three ways of looking at innocence in general:
  • Everybody is assumed to be innocent until it's proven that they aren't;
  • Everybody is assumed to be guilty until it's proven that they aren't;
  • Innocence or guilt is an indeterminate state until one or the other is proven.

American legal culture has since inception operated under the first principle, except in the case of black people in the pre-civil-rights south, in which case the second principle operated.

The second principle is inappropriate in any non-tyrannical judicial system. "Suspect everyone whose innocence has not been proven" is the rule used by oppressive societies throughout history; it presumes a system which is absolutely devoid of trust.

The third principle is impossible to implement.

[ Parent ]

Interesting trivia. (nt) (none / 0) (#80)
by nymbol on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 03:02:24 PM EST

[ Parent ]
So here's a question for you, then (none / 0) (#82)
by aphrael on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 03:11:02 PM EST

How do you tell if someone is 'innocent'?

[ Parent ]
That's easy. (none / 2) (#83)
by bakuretsu on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 04:30:12 PM EST

You tie them to a chair connected to a pole that extends over the water. Dunk them in the water and if they float, they're a wi-- guilty. If they drown, then they were innocent.

-- Airborne
    aka Bakuretsu
    The Bailiwick -- DESIGNHUB 2004
[ Parent ]
And if they blow up (none / 0) (#102)
by Viliam Bur on Mon Dec 15, 2003 at 07:53:13 AM EST

they're terrorist.

[ Parent ]
On a large scale.. (none / 0) (#87)
by nymbol on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 06:58:29 PM EST

..innocence cannot be proven. Which is probably why our courts aren't so much concerned with it.

But let us all know if you come up with a method for this. It could prove useful.

[ Parent ]

"innocent until proven guilty" (nt) (none / 0) (#103)
by phred on Mon Dec 15, 2003 at 12:34:22 PM EST

[ Parent ]
exactly (none / 0) (#110)
by aphrael on Thu Dec 18, 2003 at 09:34:22 AM EST

which is why "innocent until proven guilty" is an important component of freedom. absent that, you've got everyone being guilty, all of the time.

[ Parent ]
Oh, that old one! (none / 2) (#100)
by trezor on Mon Dec 15, 2003 at 06:20:31 AM EST

How do you prove that you haven't done something you haven't done?

Well... That's kinda like G.W. Bush asking Saddam to produce evidence that something doesn't exist. Which is impossible.

Therefore, most civilzed societies rather demand it to be vica-verse. You have to prove that the dirt is there, not that the dirt isn't there.

In the US of A, this is obviously not the case, as long as the goverment sees it fit. Hence: stupid terrorist laws like this, ultra-outlawing something allready forbidden.

Someone would call that wasting time, and liberty.

Richard Dean Anderson porn? - Now spread the news

[ Parent ]
Scottish Law (none / 2) (#81)
by cowbutt on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 03:07:29 PM EST

Interestingly, Scottish law provides for a 'not proven' verdict. The end effect is the same as 'not guilty' and the defendant may not be tried again for the same crime, but such a verdict leaves a stain on the defandant's character.

[ Parent ]
Redefining Terrorism (none / 2) (#84)
by virtualjay222 on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 05:10:36 PM EST

As was pointed out to me, terrorism should refer only to politically-driven violence. Unfortunately, that meaning seems to be lost in the post-9/11 media-hype. Now we have everyone and their brother being charged with terrorisms for quite menial things.

Do you think that this will become less common after a few more years when the newness, so-to-speak, wears off, or will it only get worse?


I'm not in denial, I'm just selective about the reality I choose to accept.

-Calvin and Hobbes

Not the newness... (none / 1) (#93)
by kmcrober on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 11:57:43 PM EST

but the political usefulness.  I think accurate and responsible discussion has been hurt by the fact that no one has ever been able to get a solid, semi-official definition of terrorism.  No matter how you slice it, you inevitably wind up casting someone as a terrorist that makes the definition unpalatable to one important power or another.  Anti-apartheid activists, Israeli special forces, contras...  It's just never been possible, even in the international conventions, to nail it down.

That makes it too easy to abuse the word for rhetorical and political purposes.  Its "newness" shouldn't make a difference, since it isn't a new term, even in the American political process.  I think once its special applicability to the enemy du jour wears off, though, we'll see some more rhetorical restraint.  

[ Parent ]

What worries me... (none / 0) (#99)
by trezor on Mon Dec 15, 2003 at 06:12:50 AM EST

From the article:

    It certainly is valid to ask whether the whole war on terror is successful.

I don't agree. I don't agree at all. You know what? I think it certainly is valid to ask wether the whole war on terror is balogney.

Which indeed is a rather more interesting question.

Richard Dean Anderson porn? - Now spread the news

[ Parent ]
please enlighten us. (none / 1) (#88)
by /dev/trash on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 07:09:37 PM EST

What is the story behind 9/11?

Updated NEW 10/15/2003!!
New Site, More Parks
Globalism=>Insecurity (none / 2) (#92)
by nomoreh1b on Sat Dec 13, 2003 at 11:29:11 PM EST

What is strange in the US right now is this hysteria that means systematic infringement upon Constitutional rights while at the same time, the most basic steps to secure the US borders aren't beeing taken. Why are US "leaders" so concerned with maintaining a large about of immigration to the US-even when most of the US public wants less immigration? Why does the US government throw hundreds of billions of dollars into Israel when disposable income of working families is declining?

A lot of the risk of terrorism could be markedly reduced by simply containing all illegal passage accross US borders and requiring visa holders to post bonds(which could have rates that vary). For the most part is is pretty obvious who the high risk folks are---for the most part this wouldn't have to disturb international trade and commerce.

I know "someone" (none / 3) (#96)
by trimethyl on Sun Dec 14, 2003 at 09:51:06 PM EST

who is being prosecuted as a terrorist.

His crime? He fired a shot in anger at his (estranged) wife in his own home. He missed. Coming to his senses, he called police and reported the incident.

For his forthright honesty, he's now facing 56+ years for "an act of terrorism". His wife is against his prosecution, and his family is totally supporting him. No one has come forward to press charges, yet he is being prosecuted anyway.

This man was only a handful of years from retirement. Instead of a facing a small fine and probation (as he thought), he's now facing the prospect of spending the rest of his natural life in jail for what turned out to be a harmless outburst of anger.

Without the "terrorism enhancement", his domestic disturbance offense would have warranted only a few years in jail, at most.

So this is what they mean by "tough on crime"? It makes me wonder if the crimes for which all of these "terrorists" have been prosecuted are anything more than normal misdemeanors transformed into acts of terrorism by the Patriot Act. It seems more like a political numbers game to me.

Basic Stats (none / 2) (#104)
by czolgosz on Mon Dec 15, 2003 at 06:33:57 PM EST

This whole discussion makes me think that we're seeing an example of Statistics 101. The Feds are using a system with a fairly high rate of error to find bad guys (for now let's turn a blind eye to the possibility that some of the prosecutions are motivated by political considerations or simple spite). So pretend it's a statistical test. Then there's a tradeoff between Type 1 (you let the bad guy get away) and Type 2 (you wrongly convicted an innocent person) errors. It's well-known that driving down Type 1 errors to zero when the condition to be detected is rare (say, terrorism) causes a disproportionate increase in Type 2 errors.

I believe that the justice system prior to Ashcroft's power grab represented a balance reflecting a social consensus regarding the acceptable level of Type 2 errors. Note that this is not the false "liberty versus security" dichotomy so tiresomely and wrongly repeated in the press. This is a tradeoff between security and injustice.

There should be public debate on the undeniable fact that, even with these acquittals, many more innocent people will be punished (and probably many executed) as a result of this biased "because I said so" approach to justice. Especially since most of the measures Ashcroft has pushed will actually worsen the quality of the data coming into the system, by allowing anonymous informants, manipulating the rules to lessen the likelihood of appeals, and other "reforms" whose real effect is to increase unaccountable power of the executive branch. This will reduce, not improve, the basic accuracy of the test.

Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? --Larkin
i agree in principle... (none / 0) (#111)
by mircrypt on Thu Jan 01, 2004 at 02:20:48 PM EST

Re: your point that the level of charges versus conditions does beg for a statistics 101 analogy. However, something to keep in mind is the nature of the charges levelled against the accused, and the exact charges for which those who have been convicted were sentenced on. From my understanding...which I'll throw in sans the figures for now...although I'm sure I could scrounge those up if you'd like...a large percentage of the convictions for these persons charged with 'terrorism' are based on immigration violations...which has no direct ties to the terrorism "charges" themselves.

I second the distaste for Ashcroft's police-state vision for the DOJ...you might be interested to know that Washington Post ran a few stories on the 31st relating to some public sanctioning of Ashcroft and his bully-pulpit approach to media attention-getting. Two notable stories were his decision to recuse himself from the CIA officer leak probe...which tends to suggest that there is at least a possibility that someone at the cabinet level either unofficially ok'd the leak or was remiss in stopping it...the other was the ruling by (I believe) the 2nd Circuit against Ashcroft for violating a gag order. He failed to apologize publically as the court had instructed him to...which just led to another decision criticizing him for playing politics with the law...big surprise there.

As to improving the "accuracy" of the "test"...my take is scratch the damn Patriot Act...it has not been proven (in any of the research and studies I've seen) to have any demonstrable correlation to a "reduction" (if there has been one) in the threat of terror against US interests and territory. Most of the legislators who signed on to the act either did so because of the overwhelming public outcry at the time of its passage for "something" in the legislation that congress to address the issue of terrorism or failed to read/have themselves briefed on the extent to which the Act could be applied to abrogate both civil liberties and due process.
"Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you". - Aldus Huxley -
[ Parent ]

Patriot Act (none / 1) (#112)
by czolgosz on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 02:17:19 PM EST

Most of the legislators who signed on to the act either did so because of the overwhelming public outcry at the time of its passage for "something" in the legislation that congress to address the issue of terrorism or failed to read/have themselves briefed on the extent to which the Act could be applied to abrogate both civil liberties and due process.

I agree that the Patriot Act and its successors should be scrapped. By removing government accountability, it makes it less likely that any person with potentially useful information would contact the government, since by doing so they might find themselves sucked into the Project for a New American Gulag.

As best I can discern, the Soviet-style unanimity with which the act was passed was mostly due to the spinelessness of the legislators, who were afraid that if they said no, it would be used against them at the next election. In short, they sold us out in order to keep their jobs. But I also wonder if the Bush administration had information (say, from wiretaps?) that they threatened to use to blackmail the Congresscritters? They were certainly not above wiretapping allies at the UN during the Iraq war votes. The near-unanimity makes one suspect that coercion may have been involved. Real democracies don't behave like that.

Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? --Larkin
[ Parent ]
The Real Question (none / 0) (#107)
by LuYu on Wed Dec 17, 2003 at 12:44:12 AM EST

The real question everyone should be asking is:

What is the fate of these victims of the (in)justice system after they have been acquitted or dismissed?
It seems as if the federal government is creating databases of "terrorists", and these attempts at procecution just unfairly add many people to the massive lists of "terrorists" being compiled by the FBI and their ilk.

In the case of that hick that "detonat[ed] a pipe bomb in his girlfriend's empty car", it sounds like some stupid guy that was blowing up a car to see if he could do it. While there are quite a few facts that I am lacking, it does not sound as if he had any reason to be labelled a "terrorist". Unless he was connected to some terrorist network with some stated goal by his actions, the charge of "terrorsim" is being grossly misused in a case like this. Why was he accused of "terrorism"? Was it because he made a "car bomb"? If he used dynamite to blow up a rock, would that be different?

Do not get me wrong. I do not think that people should blow up cars. But that hardly makes one a terrorist. Is this man going to be strip searched every time he tries to get on an airplane now? What about those other people whose procecution failed? Will they be harrassed by airport security? Will it be on their prior arrest record? Will the cops be more likely to shoot them because their arrest record says the cops are dealing with a "terrorist"?

What ever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?


"I will believe you are not an animal when you do not eat, sleep, urinate, or defecate for one month."

Tough on Terror, or Tough on Liberty? | 111 comments (83 topical, 28 editorial, 2 hidden)
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