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[P]
The mysterious case of the American Taliban

By jd in Op-Ed
Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 03:22:13 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

John Walker is to face trial, in a civilian court, on conspiracy and terrorist charges. But is a fair trial even possible?


Last night, I heard Mr. Ashcroft detail the charges against Mr Walker. The terms "traitor" and "treason" never seemed far from his lips. Now, it doesn't really matter if you think that these were accurate or not. The fact is, the prosecution is willing to make inflamatory accusations in public that it won't make, or back, in court.

In my opinion, this treads dangerously close to attempting to pervert the course of justice. It may very well be true that John Walker is a traitor, but those aren't the charges he's facing. As things stand, when he does go before the courts, he will have to defend, not only against the charges laid against him in court, but also the charges laid against him in the media.

In principle, any judge could throw the charges out, on the grounds that the prosecution has made a fair, unbiased trial impossible. Ashcroft's very ill-advised remarks are increasingly psyching up the public to want blood. John Walker could be guilty of nothing more than getting mixed up in a really nasty cult, deserving nothing more than extensive treatment. The important word there is "could". The reason justice MUST be blind is that appearances can be deceiving. Often they aren't, but if you want real justice, you have to do better than that. And that means facts, not feelings, must rule in court.

This isn't the first time this has occured. When almost any high-profile suspect is caught, there is a huge media circus. Several suspects never survived to have their day in court, being killed at some media feeding-frenzy or other.

Yes, this is about John Walker, but it's also about ALL the John Walkers of the world. If the American justice system is to regain some of its shattered credibility, it must make it clear that defamation, slander, libel, perjury, contempt of court, tampering with witnesses, and other such conduct CANNOT AND WILL NOT be permitted.

John Walker is likely to be guilty as all hell. Likely, but not certain. Only he knows for sure. Placing him on trial now would have no basis in justice. It would be to satisfy the thirst for blood that the public and Mr. Ashcroft have. If we want that kind of justice system, fine. Then stop pretending we've one based on laws, and just go with the public lynchings that people seem to want so bad. And stop pretending we live in a civilised country. Lynch mobs are the hallmarks of barbarians.

This, then, is the ultimate test of the integrity of the US Judicial system. There would be strong legal grounds for the judge to dismiss the case as untriable and to throw the book at the DoD for its handling of the affair. Even if John Walker were to walk in, screaming "I'm guilty!" at the top of his lungs, the judge would have every right to argue that the lawful requirement of a fair, unbiased trial was impossible, and that the case could not be heard, no matter what any of the participants said or did, from this point on.

As I said, this is not the first time that this has happened. And it likely won't be the last. But it is destroying any fairness, any justice, the system may still posess, in the name of publicity.

The whole issue is further complicated by people's need to know, the obligation on the Government to inform (strange how that only happens when it's politically useful, though!), and the requirement that justice is seen to be done.

How could this have been better handled? (If, indeed, you think it could have been.)

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The mysterious case of the American Taliban | 101 comments (98 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
From the Wash Post (4.21 / 14) (#1)
by wiredog on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 10:03:17 AM EST

by Howard Kurtz

True, Walker will face life in prison if convicted. It's not like he's getting off lightly. But while his American citizenship has brought him enormous publicity, one wonders whether that has also delivered a different law-enforcement standard.

Could it maybe, just possibly be that the White House doesn't want to seek the death penalty for Walker because it fears generating sympathy for the only Taliban fighter who some might see as a mixed-up Bay Area adolescent?

Arthur Andersen's firing of one of its top auditors is far easier to understand. The accounting firm is fighting for its life, and it needs some scapegoats, fast.

I'm not sure that the "lawful requirement of a fair, unbiased trial" is that strong. The Constitutional requirements include a jury of 12 peers, and there are various rules of evidence. But, to take an extreme (more than this?) example. If John Doe of Houston Texas is caught, on live TV, stabbing his wife and kids to death, and the tape is played over and over again, he will be tried, even though the entire jury will have seen the tape. The alternative is to let a known killer go free. Not that he'd live long. And the people who did him in would probably not be convicted of anything. (Especially in Texas.)

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"

unbiased jurors (3.40 / 5) (#2)
by karb on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 10:12:30 AM EST

I agree.

I have heard of asking for change of venue because of potential juror bias/intimidation.

I have never, ever, ever heard of dropping a case because of potential juror bias/intimidation.
--
Who is the geek who would risk his neck for his brother geek?
[ Parent ]

And where, just where can John Walker (3.50 / 4) (#13)
by terpy on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 01:12:22 PM EST

go to receive a fair trial even if a change of venue was granted? Now, I think he is likely guilty, and feel no sympathy for him in that regard. But he still deserves the fair trial that is supposedly garaunteed(sp?) here n the US. This will likely be, a fairly public (meaning: visible worldwide) trial, with much media commentary. Ashcroft was way out of line, in his public statements.

----
<joh3n> BUKKAKE: the final frontier
<joh3n> these are the stories of the starship: jizziprize
[ Parent ]

re: death penalty (3.00 / 5) (#5)
by chopper on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 10:27:09 AM EST

Could it maybe, just possibly be that the White House doesn't want to seek the death penalty for Walker because it fears generating sympathy for the only Taliban fighter who some might see as a mixed-up Bay Area adolescent?

well, the death penalty would be hard to pull off. he most definitely CANNOT be convicted of treason, given the incredibly high burden the Constitution places on the prosecution (2 witnesses, etc.).

a conviction of treason is an easy way to lose your head...

give a man a fish,he'll eat for a day

give a man religion and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish
[ Parent ]

Have you read the Affadavit? (4.21 / 14) (#4)
by eyespots on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 10:20:26 AM EST

How can you claim he will get an unfair trial just because of media bias or public opinion? It sure didn't do anything for either OJ Simpson, or in the recent case of Junta, so how can you logically claim this for the Walker trial?

Ths sad thing is that if you read the Affidavit in Support of a Criminal Complaint and an Arrest Warrant, you'll see that all the criminal acts that he is charged with are things that he has admitted to! He was informed of his rights, signed a form saying he understood his rights, and then admitted his guilt to both American government officals and CNN

I can see it now; he'll be found guilty and people will still be talking about how this is an example of an unfair, biased justice system.

So what if he admits to something? (3.80 / 5) (#8)
by jd on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 11:36:37 AM EST

If I were to "admit" to having 12 arms, 36 legs, and 144 eyes, would that make it true?

The purpose of having a trial is to establish the truth of the matter. Whether a person is convicted or released is supposed to be a function of the truth, as the court determines it, not a function of what any one person says, whether they're the prosecutor or the defendent.

What John Walker admits to is of no importance. What matters is whether the trial is capable of establishing the truth, and then passing judgement based SOLELY on that truth, and nothing else.

The OJ trial is a classic example of media influence. The jurors were getting news, via their girlfriends, on what the media was saying, and then passed sentance based on their opinion of the media. The jury had no interest in truth. They were living off the reaction. The police investigation board that freed the Rodney King officers were doing the same thing.

Justice isn't about being freed, or being convicted. Justice is about knowing the truth of the matter.

[ Parent ]

OJ? Rodney King? (5.00 / 9) (#12)
by rusty on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 01:04:21 PM EST

The OJ trial is a classic example of media influence. The jurors were getting news, via their girlfriends, on what the media was saying, and then passed sentance based on their opinion of the media. The jury had no interest in truth. They were living off the reaction. The police investigation board that freed the Rodney King officers were doing the same thing.

That doesn't make any sense. The media and popular opinion in both of those cases was overwhelmingly that the defendants were guilty. Overwhelmingly almost to the point of unanimity. It could much more easily be argued that both of those cases are shining examples of how the court of popular opinion didn't manage to pervert a high profile case. Of course, they're more likely examples of how enough money can buy a not guilty verdict in the first case, and how white OC residents view the beating of a black hooligan as necessary now and then in the second. But either way, I don't see how verdicts that ran completely against the current of popular opinion can be used as examples of media influence.

I think that people are much smarter than you and all the pundits who constantly bemoan the "court of public opinion" would give them credit for. The average person on the street is, in fact, capable of listening to a set of facts presented in one context, and making a decision based solely on those facts, filtering out a lot of other information which they may know, but cannot legitimately influence their decision. People can compartmentalize.

Finally, as has been pointed out elsewhere, the charges against Walker are not exactly far-reaching. He is charged with:

(1) engaging in a conspiracy, while outside the United States, to kill nationals of the United States outside of the United States, namely, United States nationals engaged in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332(b); (2) providing, attempting to provide, and conspiring to provide material support and resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations, namely, al-Qaeda and Harakat ul-Mujahideen ("HUM"), in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2339B and 2; and (3) engaging in prohibited transactions with the Taliban, in violation of Title 31, Code of Federal Regulations, Sections 545.201 and 545.204, Executive Order # 13129, Title 50, United States Code, Sections 1702 and 1705, and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2.
None of these are particularly speculative, and none of them are directly related to the 9/11 attacks. They are concerned with the prison insurrection and murder of Johnny Spann. The government's case will concern, I imagine, the events that transpired after Walker was identified and interrogated, and through the prison uprising and murder of Spann. I doubt it will be as emotional a courtroom scene as people seem to expect.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Freedom of Speech (3.50 / 4) (#15)
by Woundweavr on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 03:07:11 PM EST

Do you propose that the media ignore all crimes and trials? Should the legal system be closed to public scrutiny? This seems to invite more corruption and injustice.

True you are innocent until proven guilty in the US. However, admitting guilt effectively acts as proof. If you don't deny the charges and you are of sound mind you are proven guilty.

Thats how it works and it you live in the real world it makes sense.

In disbelieving Walkers confession, you are presuming his guilt as a liar before having proof. If you assume he is lying, you must assume all witnesses, victims and defendants are lying. If you assume everyone is lying either you take the side that testimony does NOT support, which obviously is moronic since the US Justice system is based on testimony, or there can be no real trial.

In some cases, the media does damage the legal system. However, in this case its stupid to call foul. Walker was found working with the enemy against the US. Noone disagrees with that. Walker is a US citizen, noone disagrees with this. Walker admits to working in supporting the Taliban against the US(although not in a combative I think. Its not part of the charges anyway). Noone disagrees with that.

This is not the case to complain about media interference. Its as open and shut as a man found with bloody knife in his hand over a person stabbed to death who also admits to the crime.

As far as media looking in on the justice system other than completely overhawling the system is to block the media from publishing anything involving the legal system and crimes. Do you really want to throw out freedom of the press and allow prior restraint? Or perhaps if something is published on it, the perpetrator is released automatically?

A happy medium is needed and as opposed to most issues involving the media, this situation isnt bad at all.

[ Parent ]

admitted guilt? (4.66 / 3) (#20)
by Delirium on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 05:37:06 PM EST

Certainly he admitted some things, but I don't think he's admitted guilt to all the charges brought against him, per se. In particular, I'm a bit wary of the conspiracy to kill Americans abroad charge. From what I understand, after joining the Arab fighters in Afghanistan, he was given the choice to go into the terrorism portion of the organization or into the Afghani civil war portion, and he chose the latter. That would seem to be an explicit choice to not commit conspiracy to kill Americans, and instead to join a militia killing other Afghanis in a civil war. And at the time he joined it, this militia was not even US-allied (it was primarily supported by Russia).

[ Parent ]
true, true (4.00 / 2) (#24)
by eyespots on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 06:09:28 PM EST

You're correct; he didn't admit his guilt. Rather he admitted to conducting criminal activities (or at least that's what the charges were against him).

However, there are two main arguments against him regarding the conspiracy to commit murder against Americans (I'm not saying either is correct, just what they are.)

1. As quoted from the Affadavit, "Walker further stated that he knew at the time that Bin Laden and al-Qaeda were "against America and the government of Saudi Arabia," and that al-Qaeda's purpose was to fight Americans."

I think this shows he knew ahead of time that this organization was involved in terrorist attacks/attacking Americans.

2. As quoted from the Affavit as well, "after the September I I attacks, all of the Bin Laden training camps were closed and the people in those camps were sent to the front lines to protect Bin Laden and to defend against what they anticipated would be attacks from the United States. Walker further stated that he remained with his fighting group until their position in Takhar was bombed by the U.S. Thereafter, according to Walker, he and his group retreated to Kunduz."

This could demonstrate that he was willing to defend Bin Laden, hence attack American soldiers. If he was truly against killing American soldiers, why didn't he surrender along the way to Kunduz? Or admit to being an American when interviewed by Spann?

I'm not saying this is all true- rather just demonstrating the argument of the prosecution, which I think is logical and has a decent point. Only when the trial arrives will we be able to get more of the story, and be able to judge the situation better.

[ Parent ]

But should Ashcroft have been talking about it? (5.00 / 2) (#31)
by khym on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 07:55:35 PM EST

Even ignoring whatever affect media bias might have on trials, shouldn't the prosecution side of the government not reveal details of an ongoing case to the public like that?

--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
unsure- any lawyers out there? (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by eyespots on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 08:07:46 PM EST

Are there are lawyers in the house?

Somehow I think (I could be wrong, I don't know where I read this) that in a trial in civilian courts, like this, the government has to release information regarding why they are bringing the person to trial. Hence, Ashcroft was legally required to release the Affadavit.

Take this with a grain of salt- I might be wrong on this.

I do agree with you regarding Ashcroft speaking- he should have released the affadavit and nothing more, to minimize any spin the media could place on it.

[ Parent ]

Ashcroft just can't win (2.00 / 1) (#55)
by PresJPolk on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 05:56:38 AM EST

IF he holds someone secretly, he's berated.

If he comes open with a trial, he gets whacked in public, too.

[ Parent ]
Other cases? (3.55 / 9) (#6)
by czar chasm on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 10:32:27 AM EST

As I said, this is not the first time that this has happened.
What are some of these other cases? I'm interersted in knowing.

-Czar Chasm
Bloo!
Let's see.... (3.00 / 4) (#10)
by jd on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 11:52:43 AM EST

The ultra-public arrest of President Kenedy's alleged assassin, resulting in said suspect being blown off the face of the Earth. (I say alledged, because there was no trial to prove the case in. A person in the US is innocent until proven guilty, no matter HOW strong the evidence may be.)

The fracas surrounding Tomothy McVeigh makes it questionable as to whether his psych test was valid. (If the doctor who undertook the evaluation was biased, then it leaves the question open as to whether he claimed McVeigh was sane, to ensure McVeigh was executed, or because he really was. What matters is not whether McVeigh -was- insane, since he's dead and doesn't care. What matters is that the publicity makes it hard to determine how honest any witness is or was. Fame is a powerful drug.)

This next case is the most disturbing of all. South Carolina police told the media to publish a photograph of a witness to a murder, who they couldn't find. (The girl had probably gone into hiding. Very sensible thing to do, in those circumstances.) A day or so later, the girl was found. Very dead. The publicity is believed to be the likely cause of the killing, and the killing makes life a lot safer for the killer(s).

[ Parent ]

In other news (2.37 / 8) (#7)
by wiredog on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 10:51:57 AM EST

Special Forces Join Effort in Philippines

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
No Caffeine for You (4.00 / 14) (#14)
by Bad Harmony on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 01:44:21 PM EST

If the American justice system is to regain some of its shattered credibility, it must make it clear that defamation, slander, libel, perjury, contempt of court, tampering with witnesses, and other such conduct CANNOT AND WILL NOT be permitted.

Shattered credibility? I think it is in pretty good shape. It may have its faults, but it could be much worse. I can remember when cops routinely beat confessions out of prisoners, and never bothered themselves with obtaining search warrants.

The Attorney General can say that someone is a thieving, murderous bastard, even if they have not been found guilty in a court of law. If the subject does not like it, he can file a civil case for slander. A prosecutor is under no obligation to pretend that the accused is innocent of the charged crimes, or any other crimes the accused may have committed. I don't think the Attorney General has anything to apologise for in this case.

54º40' or Fight!

US Credibility (4.66 / 3) (#39)
by sgp on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 10:42:36 PM EST

Shattered credibility? I think it is in pretty good shape

As a UK resident, theUS had little credibility before Sep. 2001. What little remained, shot up out of sympathy for a few days, and has been in constant decline ever since.

Declaring an unattainable "War on Terrorism", Bombing Afghan hospitals, and now treating POWs below the standard of the Geneva Convention (whether or not the US accepts that those terms apply, a civilised nation should hold certain standards towards a fellow human being anyway).

So I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but no, your credibility is *not* in good shape. Bush is not treading on ice, he is *jumping up and down* on it, and on human rights.

The US is, from now on, in no position to complain about the human rights issues in any nation.

There are 10 types of people in the world:
Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

[ Parent ]

Is this a troll? I can't quite tell... (3.50 / 2) (#43)
by Stickerboy on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 01:56:21 AM EST

...if you're serious or not. I guess I'll just have to take you seriously.

So I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but no, your credibility is *not* in good shape. Bush is not treading on ice, he is *jumping up and down* on it, and on human rights.

Um, yeah. I'll just answer your charges one by one...

Declaring an unattainable "War on Terrorism"

First, what's wrong with fighting terrorism? You seem to think there's something wrong with attempting to preemptively remove violent threats to civilization such as al-Qaeda, that somehow it makes us lose credibility. You obviously haven't been reading the news lately, either; (1) the extremist, oppressive Taliban (who is/was exponentially worse about human rights violations than the US) has been removed from power and a moderate, Western-leaning Afghani government has replaced it, due to US military action. (2) al-Qaeda's base of support in Afghanistan is destroyed, and it's finances and sources of support are in disarray. There hasn't been a clash of civilizations, as bin Laden wanted, and religious extremism in places such as Pakistan is actually being curtailed, mostly due to the fact that they can't claim to be on the ever-victorious side of God anymore.

I would say the evidence is pretty convincing that the war on terror has done nothing but increase the US' credibility. Unlike the last two major terrorist incidents (the USS Cole and the African embassy attacks) where the previous administration responded with a few cruise missiles that hit empty tents, the United States has taken action this time that has left South Asia a genuinely better place. I may not have voted for Bush, but kudos to him for doing so.

Bombing Afghan hospitals

I remember actually reading about one or two Afghan hospitals being damaged in major cities. I also remember that the Taliban had intentionally stationed weapons, soldiers, and materiel in civilian sites (mosques, hospitals, hotels) so they could either invite civilian casualties from airstrikes or force the US to back off from hitting legitimate military targets. Since what the Taliban was doing (using its own citizenry as human shields) is clearly against the Geneva Convention, the blame in such cases should be assigned to the Taliban, not the US.

There were other cases where the bomb hit the legitimate target dead on, but the target was so close to civilians that they were injured, too. I feel badly for all of those innocents that got hurt, but in a time of war, innocents getting hurt is the rule, not the exception, and the US did an admirable job in limiting such civilian casualties.

Think about it this way: compare airstrikes in Afghanistan to sanctions in Iraq. Both were meant to contain and eventually remove the leaders from power in both countries. Sanctions were generally seen as less destructive than airstrikes, and less harmful to civilian populations, but with the advent of widespread use of precision-guided weapons airstrikes actually caused far fewer civilian casualties in Afghanistan than sanctions have caused in Iraq. (Plus the airstrikes had their intended effect.)

treating POWs below the standard of the Geneva Convention

If the Taliban and al-Qaeda wish to be treated with the full protections of the Geneva Convention, then they should adhere in warfare to the rules of the Convention. They should stop using surrender as a way to kill more of the enemy. They should stop using their own civilians as human shields. The list goes on.

The POWs fall under the category of unlawful combatants, which aren't fully protected by the Convention. I'm not going to repeat the arguments presented in the related article on kuro5hin; you can go read up there if you so desire. In no case did the US do anything egregious such as torture the prisoners for information. The "violations" of the Convention amount to extra security measures that the US took with the prisoners during the long transit, including handcuffing and shackling the prisoners to prevent violent behavior and the sedating of one prisoner due to agitation and injuries.

The US is doing a wonderful job of beating back violent extremists that seek to undo order and the protections for our human rights that we enjoy. If anything, the US should get a pat on the back from every other civilized nation that is benefiting from the US spending billions a month to make the world a more secure place (including Europe and the UK, sqp; the reason that European countries are able to get away with spending so little of their budget on defense spending is because the US provides for and guarantees Europe's defense. That's why the US military spends billions to develop information-based warfare systems and precision-guided weapons. Otherwise all of the vaunted welfare states of Europe would instead have to channel significantly more money away from social work and into acquiring militaries with decent capabilities. (The UK is actually much closer to attaining a military self-sufficiency then the other European states.)).

[ Parent ]
I suspect it wasn't a troll (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by jwaskett on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 05:21:14 AM EST

Well, I'm another UK citizen. And I'm not convinced.

I partially agree with you with respect to the War on Terrorism. Let's face it, the US always needs to have a War on Something, and if a war is required, terrorism is a good choice. I think the desire to totally wipe out terrorism is a bit unrealistic, though. From this side of the pond it looks a bit like Bush trying to give the American people some confidence and security again, but that's a false sense of security. You can't wipe out terrorism completely. There will always be someone, unfortunately.

Let's face it, the media manipulates the facts so much that nobody will ever know the truth about what was bombed in Afghanistan, so there probably isn't much point arguing about it. I don't believe for a moment that the US would deliberately kill civilians, but accidents invariably happen.

Now we come to the important bit. How the prisoners are treated. I don't see how you can argue that they should have signed up to the Geneva convention. Suppose, hypothetically, that the majority of these people wanted to sign up, but that those in power didn't. Now I suppose you'd argue that they should have overthrown their leaders and put others in charge. If so, you basically state that all are responsible for the decisions of those in power.

Whatever they or their companions may have done, these people are human beings. Look at it like this: if American citizens were being treated like this, how would you feel? Furious, right? Now what if they were accused of doing some nasty things, and the charges were plausible. Still angry, right? I would be.

Look, you can call these people illegal combatants if you like. You can call them fried green tomatoes if you like. It's just hiding behind legal words. The fact is, these people are in cages facing secret military trials.

I love the US constitution and bill of rights. It's a wonderful document. Read it sometime. And get your congressman too, while you're at it. I think they might be surprised. Forget legal arguments for a moment. The constitution and bill of rights specify the basic rights that the people are entitled to. (limitations on government power, ok). A fair trial. Due process. These people had just got rid of the British. Do you honestly think that the framers would have said, "Oh, yes, we know we wrote all that stuff, but that only applies to citizens of the union?" Seriously? The union had only just been formed at the time. Why should residents of say Maryland have had so much stronger feelings of loyalty to say Idaho residents, than, say, a Frenchman? (I don't know if they had joined the union at that time, by the way) Likely as not, they didn't. No, these people felt that these were basic standards that OUGHT to apply to everyone.

Remember the declaration of independence. From memory: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal, and entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." I don't mean to suggest that they're entitled to liberty - they may be guilty. What I mean to say is that they were created equal, and the basic rights that you enjoy should apply to myself or an Afghani, despite the fact that neither are US citizens. And those basic rights still apply regardless of actions. Agree? Or perhaps a trial should be skipped and you can just be executed straight away the next time you're accused of murder?

The PRESENT US government has lost a lot of credibility in my opinion. (Not that I thought it had in the first place) But the US hasn't lost any.

[ Parent ]
There is a huge difference... (none / 0) (#66)
by Stickerboy on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 10:10:46 AM EST

Between not following every letter of the Geneva Convention, and not following the spirit of it.

If American soldiers were taking prisoner by the Taliban, do you think for a second that they would be given any of the comforts that these al-Qaeda prisoners have been given? More likely, they would have been taken to the soccer (football for you) stadium in Kabul, tortured, and then hung. I mean, hey, they did that to the political opposition in Afghanistan, much less enemy soldiers.

Now we come to the important bit. How the prisoners are treated. I don't see how you can argue that they should have signed up to the Geneva convention. Suppose, hypothetically, that the majority of these people wanted to sign up, but that those in power didn't. Now I suppose you'd argue that they should have overthrown their leaders and put others in charge. If so, you basically state that all are responsible for the decisions of those in power.

Um, you're missing the point. It's not whether they "sign up" for a document on a piece of paper, it's how they conduct themselves, in wartime and as prisoners. They have shown themselves to not follow the basic conventions of warfare under the Geneva Convention, and those are individual as well as leadership decisions. And yes, individual soldiers are responsible for their own actions - you can reserve the worst punishment for the higher-ups, but the Nazi SS private still got punished for operating the gas chamber levers.

Here's the list of violations that the US has "perpetrated" against these prisoners:
1) handcuffing and shackling the prisoners during flight, to prevent them from trying to take over the plane
2) sedating a severely agitated prisoner during transport because of his violent anger

Warning! Major violation alerts! Oh, wait, those are just reasonable security precautions, because of incidents that I outlined here. In no way, I repeat, in no way are we mistreating them or giving them any less than more than fair treatment.

Now you claim that being held in a "cage" is a gross violation of human rights. My friend, have you ever seen the inside of a prison? A maximum-security cell for high-risk prisoners? They're just cages of concrete with video cameras, instead of one made out of chain-link fence like they have at Guatanamo Bay. We have maximum-security cells in the US for our prisoners, and so do you in the UK. The distinction between a cage made of concrete and one of chain-link fencing is lost on me. By all accounts, the prison conditions in France are much worse, and are that way on purpose... so would you claim that Europe is "violating" their prisoners' "basic human rights that they're entitled to"?

Let me go further, and quote from a New York Times article detailing the conditions that the prisoners live in.

"General Lehnert said that the prisoners have toothpaste and showers and roofs over their heads. They will get bagels and cream cheese, granola bars and Froot Loops. Holding up a day-glow orange prison outfit, the general said: "They get a jump suit." But revealing a little frustration with all the international scrutiny, he added, "They don't get to pick the color." A delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday is scheduled to inspect the prisoners and conditions at the expanding prison compound here. What the Red Cross will see are men in their 20's and 30's whose heads have been shaved to prevent the spread of lice. The prisoners, including at least one British and one Australian citizen, at times read the Koran, and at times yell to their captors that they intend to kill them. "We have an international community of suspected terrorists from all over the world," General Lehnert said. "These are not nice people. Several have publicly stated here their intent to kill an American before they leave Guantánamo Bay. We will not give them that satisfaction.""

What strikes me about this article is that apart from being confined in cells, the prisoners are living with the same amenities as their military guards. "Forget legal arguments", like you say. These prisoners are being treated with every dignity a human being deserves, and much better than they themselves deserve.

As for the secret military trials, that hasn't been decided yet. A number of German saboteurs were tried at military tribunals during World War II in the United States (which is where the precedent for this comes from) and no one objected then. A characteristic of those trials were that rules of evidence were loosened, meaning that the US wouldn't have to divulge confidential intelligence sources, but at the same time the standards to convict and punish are toughened from civilian courts. You're not convincing me that a military tribunal is a bad thing, or an inherent violation of their human rights.

And those basic rights still apply regardless of actions. Agree?

Wrong. You need to read John Locke (since it seems you haven't), because a lot of his principles are what the English and American punitive judicial systems are based on. By your actions, you can give up certain rights, and it is only through evaluating those actions in a trial that it can be fairly decided if you have given up those rights. If you commit a felony, you give up your basic right to freedom while under suspicion, and after convicted, you might give up your rights to property (fines), liberty (imprisonment), and/or life (capital punishment).

Or perhaps a trial should be skipped and you can just be executed straight away the next time you're accused of murder?

No one is suggesting this for these prisoners. They will get a trial; just maybe not one that a US citizen would. Making inflammatory statements like this don't help your cause, nor do they make you any more correct in your arguments. The prisoner's human rights still aren't being violated.

I have read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, thank you very much. And nowhere is there a lack of a fair trial or due process for these prisoners. Precedent has allowed due process to be different for aliens than for citizens. For example, illegal immigrants can be deported without a trial-by-peers, whereas US citizens can't be deported at all. Foreign diplomats, on the other hand, can get away with murder and not face trial here in the US. So you see, not every human on this planet gets equal treatment under due process, or guaranteed the exact same trial by their peers. In my opinion, and in the vast majority of US citizens, lawmakers, and judges (whose opinions are the ones that count) these prisoners are being afforded the basic rights of fair trial and due process. Whether you disagree is something else entirely, and frankly, would carry very little weight unless you can back it up with something more concrete than, "Ooh! Chain-link cells and military trials! They're being violated! They're being violated!"

[ Parent ]
ok..... (none / 0) (#69)
by jwaskett on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 12:20:49 PM EST

If American soldiers were taking prisoner by the Taliban, do you think for a second that they would be given any of the comforts that these al-Qaeda prisoners have been given?

No, I don't think that at all. But I don't think that is relevant. I have no doubt that one of my colleagues would happily bad-mouth me to the boss in order to make himself look good. But I won't, because I like to think I have integrity.

Um, you're missing the point. It's not whether they "sign up" for a document on a piece of paper...

No, I'm not. Let's forget Al-Queda for a minute. Now, some Taliban I accept are simply brutal thugs. But I'm sure there are a lot of Taliban who are fairly pleasant people. Who's only 'crime' was to fight when their country was invaded. Can you honestly say that every single Taliban being held violated those standards of behaviour? Even a majority? No. Because you don't know. And neither do I.

I agree with you about the Nazis, but that's not what I am talking about. Consider our fairly pleasant Taliban, who hasn't ordered any atrocities, nor has he performed any himself, nor passed any orders to his subordinates. This is what I'm talking about. He's just a member of a group, who, as discussed earlier, made the natural choice to fight back when his country was invaded (as an illegal combatant, in your opinion). That's what I mean. If you still believe that this individual is responsible, then I assume you'll apply this to yourself also?

A military tribunal isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, they are not US military, so they are only valid if the prisoners are POWs, which apparently they aren't. But that's a different matter. What bothers me is the SECRECY. How can we possibly know if it is a fair trial when it is in secret? How can it be just if it isn't out in the open? This is security-through-obscurity as applied to justice.

And those basic rights still apply regardless of actions. Agree? Wrong.

Ok, fair comment. Let me try again: And the right to a fair trial still applies regardless of actions. Agree?

Why shouldn't they get the same trial a US citizen would? It seems to me that what's good enough for one ought to be good enough for another.

I apologise for implying that you hadn't read the Constitution. I read some of your other comments after I first posted and realised that. You obviously took away different ideas from it than I did, however. Regardless of precedent, I read it no mean what it says, literally. It was written in simple language. I think the 'interpretation' is somewhat dubious, and sometimes contradictory. And when it says: "In ALL criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and PUBLIC trial, by an impartial JURY of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.", I find secret military tribunals strangely lacking in there.

Thank you for your reply. It was very interesting and informative to read, even though I disagree with your conclusions.



[ Parent ]
We agree to disagree (none / 0) (#76)
by Stickerboy on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 05:42:56 PM EST

No, I'm not. Let's forget Al-Queda for a minute. Now, some Taliban I accept are simply brutal thugs. But I'm sure there are a lot of Taliban who are fairly pleasant people. Who's only 'crime' was to fight when their country was invaded. Can you honestly say that every single Taliban being held violated those standards of behaviour? Even a majority? No. Because you don't know. And neither do I. I agree with you about the Nazis, but that's not what I am talking about. Consider our fairly pleasant Taliban, who hasn't ordered any atrocities, nor has he performed any himself, nor passed any orders to his subordinates. This is what I'm talking about. He's just a member of a group, who, as discussed earlier, made the natural choice to fight back when his country was invaded (as an illegal combatant, in your opinion). That's what I mean. If you still believe that this individual is responsible, then I assume you'll apply this to yourself also?

We disagree on the individuals taken into custody by the US military. The US military specifically took Taliban prisoners that were higher up, and foreign nationals (mostly Arabs) who were members of al-Qaeda. I can see your argument making sense if they were imprisoning Afghan grunts and footsoldiers, but 1) the Arab and other foreign members of al-Qaeda certainly do not fit the profile of "fighting because his country was invaded", because Afghanistan is not their country! They were there specifically to enforce whatever orders bin Laden and his cronies gave... and as willing members of a terrorist organization that follows neither the letter or spirit of the Geneva Convention, it would be utterly silly to discredit the US for "not following international accords" because the US decided took prudent security measures with these individuals.

The officers of the Taliban that are in custody, if they have no role with al-Qaeda and no useful information to give about the Taliban's senior leadership (Mullah Omar and friends), will be sent back to Afghanistan for Hamid Karzai's government to deal with as they see fit, as Rumsfeld has already said.

I apologise for implying that you hadn't read the Constitution. I read some of your other comments after I first posted and realised that. You obviously took away different ideas from it than I did, however. Regardless of precedent, I read it no mean what it says, literally. It was written in simple language. I think the 'interpretation' is somewhat dubious, and sometimes contradictory. And when it says: "In ALL criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and PUBLIC trial, by an impartial JURY of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.", I find secret military tribunals strangely lacking in there.

Once again, I disagree that the Constitution applies evenly to extranationals, and I point again to the fully legal treatment of illegal immigrants and diplomats. For further example, extranationals are not given the same individual right to keep and bear arms in the US as citizens, and they don't have nearly as many options to "petition the government for a redress of grievances". For another example, the Nuremburg Trials, another set of military tribunals, tried extranationals without "an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed". But I hardly see any outcry over loss of human rights there.

Why shouldn't they get the same trial a US citizen would? It seems to me that what's good enough for one ought to be good enough for another.

Why don't illegal immigrants get the same trial a US citizen would for crossing the border illegally? Because he's an extranational.

[ Parent ]
I think we'll have to (none / 0) (#82)
by jwaskett on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 05:06:36 AM EST

Again, I think that we are looking at the question of constitutionality from different standpoints. I am reading it as a constructionist. I think that it is very dangerous to take your interpretation of it, which appears basically to be it means whatever the powers that be have said it means. Which to my mind is about as much use as having no constitution at all. There's a perfectly good amendment process which can be used if the constitution needs altering or amending.

Consider this. The 14th amendment says: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." From this language, it is very clear that it is possible to be a person and not a citizen. And in fact the word person is used exclusively (I think) in the bill of rights, while the constitution tends to refer to citizens. Do you think common usage of the words changed that rapidly?

But then, I suppose it's all a bit academic, really.



[ Parent ]
additional... (none / 0) (#84)
by jwaskett on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 11:58:15 AM EST

Well, perhaps all right-thinking people may disagree with me, but James Madison and Thomas Jefferson didn't.

Ever heard of the Alien and Sedition Acts? They were introduced by (the seemingly corrupt) President Adams. Both Madison and Jefferson fought them, and considered them totally unconstitutional. The interesting one is the Alien (Enemy?) Act. It allowed the president to order a foreigner to be deported immediately. This was seen as unconstitutional because it a) was being used to stifle free speech, and/or b) ommitted a public trial (depending on where you read about it).

here is an interesting link.



[ Parent ]
Great argument... (none / 0) (#80)
by Refrag on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 01:14:12 AM EST

I agree with you about the Nazis, but that's not what I am talking about. Consider our fairly pleasant Taliban, who hasn't ordered any atrocities, nor has he performed any himself, nor passed any orders to his subordinates. This is what I'm talking about. He's just a member of a group, who, as discussed earlier, made the natural choice to fight back when his country was invaded (as an illegal combatant, in your opinion). That's what I mean. If you still believe that this individual is responsible, then I assume you'll apply this to yourself also?
Oh yeah... the Nazis were wholly evil people. However, there are some members of the Taliban that would like nothing better than to make rainbows all day long. I guess the Nazis were evil because they attacked Europe. I see...

Excellent! Stereotypes are OK where people that attack Europe are concerned, but not where people that attack the USA are concerned.

Refrag

Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

That isn't what I'm saying at all (none / 0) (#81)
by jwaskett on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 04:37:52 AM EST

But who attacked the USA? There were the terrorists in those four planes. What was it, four in each? That's sixteen people. Plus the people who planned it. And if I ran a terrorist organisation, I'd make sure that as few people as possible knew about planned attacks.

So let's say thirty people.

That's who attacked the USA.

Sure, the other members of Al-Queda have _probably_ committed other attacks, and almost certainly _would_ have attacked if asked, too. They can be tried for that.

The Taliban has never attacked the USA. Despite George W Bush's rhetoric about those who harbour terrorists being terrorists, it simply isn't true. Collectively, the Taliban were wrong to refuse to hand over bin Laden, but that doesn't mean that they attacked the USA. In a normal criminal case, they're accessories at most.

The Nazis attacked. Al-Queda attacked, on the 11th of September. When did the Taliban attack? They didn't. They were oppressive and, to generalise, pretty nasty, but they never attacked the USA.

And the Nuremberg trials were public, weren't they?

And to answer your implication that I care about Europe because I'm a European, you're wrong. Europe is just a collection of countries. I care about the UK. I don't really care about the rest of Europe, although the idea of people being mistreated anywhere angers me. I do care about the USA. I adore the country and her people, and was probably as shocked and upset as you were on the 11th of September.



[ Parent ]
You're almost there (none / 0) (#89)
by EriKZ on Sun Jan 20, 2002 at 05:15:07 PM EST


Once the Taliban refused to hand over Bin Laden, they became an Ally of him.



[ Parent ]
I think the point is not the conditions. (none / 0) (#87)
by drquick on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 07:09:15 AM EST

The US government is dead set on not giving rights according to the Geneva accords because, it wants to interrogate, subject to trial and convict the prisoners.

It's a misconseption that the treatment of the prisoners (even if that's important too) is the reason for the governments refusal to respect international law. I think the idea to convict every military opponent US meets is a mistake and lessens America's credibility regarding international law. It seems very self-righteous. Many countries before have been scenes of very grim terrorist acts, but now USA can break treaties over it.

[ Parent ]

Nope, we still are not convinced (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by gordonjcp on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 09:42:33 AM EST

... and I, too, am British.
the extremist, oppressive Taliban (who is/was exponentially worse about human rights violations than the US) has been removed from power
OK, I remember the Russians pulling out of Afghanistan over 10 years ago. I wonder who put the Taliban in place? Was it John Major, and the British Government? Mikhail Gorbachev, as the last act of the retreating USSR forces?
Nope, it was the Americans, lead by George Bush.
If the Taliban and al-Qaeda wish to be treated with the full protections of the Geneva Convention, then they should adhere in warfare to the rules of the Convention
Fsck the Geneva Convention. You just can't go around keeping people in cages. George W. Bush calls America a Christian country? That certainly doesn't square with my view of Christianity.
The US is doing a wonderful job of beating back violent extremists that seek to undo order and the protections for our human rights that we enjoy
Yeah, right. Out of the goodness of your hearts. Our human rights to be just like the Good Ol' US of A (tm)...

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
Two measures? (2.80 / 5) (#16)
by Curieus on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 04:36:05 PM EST

I may have understood wrongly but..
AFAIK, Walker will have a 'civil' trial while all others will face a military trial.

This alone will make american justice seem partisan. One should give all captured persons (POW_though_not_named_thus) the same treatment.


No double standard (3.75 / 4) (#18)
by weirdling on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 05:24:33 PM EST

Walker is a US citizen. By US law, he cannot be tried by a military tribunal unless a member of the military, which he is not. However, as has been hashed and rehashed, the others are illegal combatants, so we can do with them as we wish.

Much as people would like to make it out, there's really no actual violation of law nor morality here...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
legalities and justice (2.00 / 1) (#22)
by Curieus on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 06:00:16 PM EST

hmm, your comment does give some perspective.
It probably is legalistically correct, but not just. But then since when did law care about justice.....
From the outside there will still be a perception of double standards.

So now lets start playing devils' advocate (i might learn something from it :-) )

So while all lawyers may be happy, the POW status is on very thin ice, considering the fact that afghanistan had a gouvernment brought to power with US help. Now the US did not acknowledge the taliban as the official gouvernment, but some other countries did.
How many countries are needed to give a gouvernment 'legality', or is it just a case of mutual acknowledgement. If the latter would be the case then if (hypothetically) any american soldier would be (/have been) captured by taliban forces, then they would have been fully in their legalistic right of executing him as infiltrator and unlawful combatant.
It seems the denial of POW-status is just a convenient choice.

Then the next point would be, are the soldier of the northern alliance 'lawful combatants, or are they just as unlawful?

A third problem could be capture of non-US citizens by american forces. Legalistically it is questionable how much right the US army has to extract citizens of australian, british, french or afghan nationality from a country with which they are not at war (AFAIK the US never declared war). This could be perceived as kidnapping.
If such a thing is deemed acceptable, then it should be deemed acceptable that any country has the right to extract any national from any country, quite a shocking thought IMHO.
For example if the US deems it acceptable to kidnap a person from another country (for example noriega) then it should find it acceptable if sooner or later someone does it to the US. (And i expect it will happen, though probably rather later than sooner)

As far as i can see the legalistic ice is very thin on these issues and solely decided by right of force.


[ Parent ]
Woefully underinformed (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by weirdling on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 11:09:25 PM EST

Again, they are not POWs. POWs are people captured while wearing insignia clearly indicating the country or authority for which they are fighting. The reason for this distinction is that if there is no clear insignia on combatants, then the other side doesn't know whom to shoot, so often shoots rather indiscriminately. This practice saves lives.

Illegal combatants are not covered by any law and are viewed by real soldiers as lower than dirt because of the exigencies they produce, so have never been covered by the Geneva convention.

Further, the US did not go over there to arrest these people. The US informed the Taliban that failure to hand them over would be an act of war, and the Taliban chose not to comply, being rather defiant in the process. Therefore, the US entered war against the Taliban and subsequently arrested those whom it sought as illegal combatants, being that they are neither Taliban nor soldiers of any other country.

Anyway, just out of curiosity, what the heck would you have done? Nobody has presented a viable solution that does not involve finding and killing Mr. Laden and any of his supporters we can find. And, if you say that fixing Palestine is a solution, please remember that this has *nothing* to do with Palestine, according to bin Laden himself; it is about the US defense of Saudi Arabia.

Whether you like it or not, it is all perfectly legal and quite ethical. It may violate some twisted moral system, but why are you defending the killers of thousands of innocents? How can you morally justify the release of those possibly responsible? It certainly does not violate my moral system one bit.

As to perceptions, aren't you Europeans always complaining that Americans are woefully underinformed? Would it not hurt to take the time to acquaint yourself with the relavant laws and with the actual situation before simply calling the US onto the carpet for things European governments routinely do? Nice to sit in your couch over there where most people aren't acquainted with the idiotic and immoral things your government has done, and, indeed, where the majority of the population is not even acquainted with the immoral things their government has done. However, I am. There is not a single European government that has any right to pass moral judgement on any other government.

I'm sorry if this is offensive, but remember that Europeans seem to assume themselves the moral leaders of the world, when the truth is that they have done far more to rape and pillage the third world than the US has even contemplated. Many of them have directly reduced countries to poverty and killed thousands of indigents in the process.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the reaction (3.00 / 1) (#48)
by Curieus on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 04:38:50 AM EST

But you might have noted the phrase "devils advocate".

It may also be of note, that according to the definition you quote about lawful combatants, Northern alliance forces are, for at least a large part, unlawful combatants.
Again i may be misinformed, but doesn't that same geneva convention require a declaration of war, or doesn't it?

As you already stated, i am woefully misinformed, but what are the conditions under american law for declaring war. Is an executive order sufficient? Or are other procedures required, and did they all happen? You may see this once again as criticism, but then again you might imagine that we don't get exactly that precise information about the behaviour of your congress and house. (Thank heaven we don't, my own countries' politicians are bad enough, without having to hear everything about other countries' too).

As for a different solution, i admit to know no different quick solution, but also must admit to think that there is no quick solution. Fighting terrorism like this is like trying to make a dent in water.
The reason i played devils advocate is that i want to see both sides of an isue. And it becomes clear to me that while the horse of legalities all the media ride one is present, it definitely is starved and paper thin in places.

The next paragraphs, well, they are full of opinions and emotions, but it seemingly all boils down to:
Do you think you europeans are all superior to americans..
My answer: No
My Question: Do you believe either this or the reverse?
If no, where does this tirade come from?

[ Parent ]
For the record (4.00 / 1) (#52)
by weirdling on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 05:22:42 AM EST

Europeans and Americans and Africans and Russians and Asians are all pretty much the same. They all try to get ahead; they all think their respective thoughts and make their respective decisions. Nobody is ever really any more moral than the next guy.

The rant comes from being pretty tired of the self-important moralization from countries who have actually committed far worse in their histories than the US ever has. I could go on for hours, as I was a volunteer in Rwanda, was born in Zaiire, grew up in Pakistan and India, have visited most European countries and have only recently spent more time in the US than out.

I am also a military history nut, so have read extensively on such campaigns as French Indochina and, of course, what the British did to Afghanistan, followed by what the Russians did there. That place has been fought over for centuries, which is odd, because only Afghanis want to live there, but it is actually rather strategic and the tendency to breed terrorists and partisans keeps its neighbors afraid.

I, unlike most people who attack the actions of the US, have actually *been* to Afghanistan. I've even been to Iran.

As to the Geneva Convention, the US has, afaik, never actually ratified it. They are, afaik, signatory to it, but it is not US law until ratified. One of the reasons is that the US cannot, by law, surrender sovereignty to any foreign court.

As a matter of fact, pretty much everyone in Afghanistan, including our own troops, for the most part, constituted 'unlawful combatants'. However, the point is largely moot, as there is a proviso in the Geneva Convention stipulating reciprocity; in other words, as Afghanistan is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention, neither the US nor Great Britain are required to actually abide by it.

As to declaring war, that is a bit convoluted. In the US, the president may commit troops to action for sixty days without so much as a peep from congress. After sixty days, either the senate passes a 'continuing resolution' to keep up the current hostilities, it declares war, or it either leaves it alone or passes a condemning resolution, both of which require withdrawal.

We haven't, as a country, declared war since WWII, afaik. However, a 'continuing resolution' has the force of declaring war for the purposes of the Geneva Convention, I believe.

In this case, the senate almost immediately and unanimously passed a resolution granting the president powers of war to do as he liked. It has been widely regarded as a bad move, but people were caught up in the movement and GW has showed admirable restraint. Given that there was some thirty percent popular support for the use of nuclear weapons, though, the free reign isn't surprising.

As to the solution inherent here, I believe it to be the best possible, given the factors. It certainly is neither permanent nor ideal, but it is what we have to work with, and, by and large, I believe the actions taken in Afghanistan to have been wise. The truth is that we will be doing this for a very long time.

Now, some questions: what country do you live in? How do you declare war?

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Questions (none / 0) (#58)
by Curieus on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 07:48:14 AM EST

Given your bio, i'll give a short background too.
Born in India, lived in Peru, The Netherlands, Upper Volta, The Netherlands, where i currently still reside.

As for declaration of war... Hmm the last declaration of war issued by the dutch gouvernment must have been the Atjeh wars. (approx 100 years ago).
The last declaration of war forced upon us was when german troops crossed the border in 1940.

As in all cases of similar importance a declaration of war must be issued by the crown ("de kroon"), which incidently isn't the king/queen, but the king/queen, prime minister and all other ministers. All actions of the crown are subject to approval from parliament, both houses.
So in the case of a willful declaration of war, approval from parliament is required, otherwise:
in case of emergency (like an attack) a different procedure may be followed, though this is conjecture and not knowledge.

On perception,

Internal perception works in two directions, first there is a need for revenge now, but a need for justice later, 30 years in the future. And the line between justice and revenge is thin.
While revenge seems more satisfying, it has the problem of having a greater risk of breeding more revenge.
The second direction is how one wishes to see ones' own society. If civilised then that brings with it all kind of moral obligations on behaviour: all 'barbarians' should be tried using those civilised norms. If the 'barbarian' norms are used upon the 'barbarians' then a flaw is introduced into your society, one that either will require much effort to repair, or will cause significant damage.

As for judgements from other countries.. They are a reality, and therefore a political fact. What those same other countries themselves did 30 years ago is long forgotten, but how a country behaves now will influence its outside relations for years to come.
That doesn't mean that one should go all the way to please all outsiders, because some people/entities never can be pleased, it does however impose a need to balance internal need and outside perception.

Sincerely
Curieus

"I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it"
and yet you can't stop trying :-)

[ Parent ]
I agree, mostly (none / 0) (#62)
by weirdling on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 09:12:56 AM EST

I do not, however, feel that these prisoners are going to be subjected to arrogant punishment without any sort of trial.

However, there are pragmatic considerations at this point. Public trials are in the habit of letting out vast amounts of information, which the Bush administration insists would be injurious to continued efforts against terrorism. Whether this is true or not is impossible to determine without requiring that the administration release the very information they wish to protect.

Further, repatriation is impossible, as destabilisation of the recently installed government is unacceptable.

In other words, what else to do?

The Netherlands are cleaner of other's blood than many other European countries, although, of course, they did engage in colonization.

While it is true that what a country did hundreds of years ago does not matter much today, England and France have done these things in the past twenty years, with France being engaged in terrorist problems of its own and England only recently having started the long road to resolution of the Irish problem.

BTW, are you aware of WWII history? Is not Admiral Doorman one of yours? That is one of the unsung heroes of WWII, the man who, with a few British, Dutch, and American ships slowed the Japanese down enough that the US Navy still had a base of operations in the South Pacific. Brilliant tactician.


I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Yep i knew about Karel Doorman (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by Curieus on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 10:18:48 AM EST

Unfortunately, he is mainly know for his last attack. And still i wonder how much more effective it would have been had he had more the attitude of Johannes Cornelisz Coen than of van Speijk.

Short history: van Speijk was a captain on a ship in the harbour of Antwerp during the belgian revolt. When the rebels/revolters boarded his ship, he is quoted to have said "dan maar de lucht in" (freely translated: I'd rather be blown up) and blew up his ship boarders and all, (He had already ordered his crew of the ship)
J.C. Coen was gouvernour of Batavia, when during one of the English wars (which those english mislabel "dutch wars" simply ignoring that they started them all out of pure jealousy :-) ) a strong english fleet was sighted approaching Batavia. Instead of fighting where he was overmatched, he fled the town with all ships and as many supplies as possible and sailed to Formosa. From there he mounted an expedition and recaptured Batavia.

As for this:
"The Netherlands are cleaner of other's blood than many other European countries"
Partially this may be contributable to the fact that there was no "gouvernment" sponsored colonialism in the early days. It almost all was mercantile oriented, and trade was seen as more lucrative than land. Besies land required wars with indigenous people, and that is expensive and should therefore be limited as much as possible...
But i have no illusions that most if this may be more contributable to lack of opportunity than anything else. :-)

[ Parent ]
This trial is a joke (2.33 / 6) (#17)
by annenk38 on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 04:43:16 PM EST

Clearly the kid hasn't hurt anyone. Even at the time when he could reasonably have claimed self-defence -- he chose to wait it out at the prisoner camp. Whatever his motivations may have been -- they did not withstand the test of time. He has become another political football. What is certain is that the twelve people that will be selected as the jurors will not be his peers. More pretzels, please.

And if my left hand causes me to stumble as well -- what do I cut it off with? -- Harry, Prince of Wales (The Blackadder)
He's not being accused of hurting anyone! (2.00 / 1) (#19)
by eyespots on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 05:25:14 PM EST

Just because he didn't directly hurt anyone doesn't mean that he's not guilty of anything. If I try to murder someone, and fail, does that mean I didn't commit a crime!? Of course not, that's conspiracy to commit murder. In his case, he's accused of assisting a known terrorist organization.

By his admission, he joined Al-queda, which he knew at the time to be a terrorist organization. By the time he joined this group, evidence had piled up on their involvement in both the bombing of the Embassy in Kenya and the attack on the Colem which he was aware of (see the affadavit).

Given this, he then gave aid to this organization. He then continued to aid this organization after the September 11th attacks. He admitted himself that he knew of the attacks, he knew about American retaliation, and knew that further attacks were planned against Americans. Yet he continued to aid Al-Queda.

You could say that perhaps he couldn't stop fighting once he was on the front lines (being surrounded by other Al-Queda troops). However, if it was true he didn't want to aid the Taliban and Al-Queda after the Sept. 11th attacks, why did he remain silent during his interview with Spann?

The most likely explanation is that he wanted to continue aiding Al-Queda, however we'll have to wait until the trial for more information to unfold.

[ Parent ]

Double Standard! (4.50 / 4) (#29)
by deefer on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 07:27:01 PM EST

he's accused of assisting a known terrorist organization.

Great. Just line up every single USian who has donated cash to NORAID, and us Brits will have them sent to an H block (for the internationally challenged, go look it up). We'll keep them there until we see fit to try them.

Give us a big media blitz about how these NORAID contributors (read alleged terrorists, in your terms...) contributed to the multiple bombings in Northern Ireland and many cities across the UK.

Oh, and of course, we'll give them a fair trial...


Kill the baddies.
Get the girl.
And save the entire planet.

[ Parent ]

what double standard? (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by eyespots on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 07:46:05 PM EST

I'm really not well-versed about NORAID, but from a quick web-search it looks like to me that they are for Education and financial assistances of the wives and children of IRA people in jail.

I am guessing from your response that NORAID is some organization to fund terrorist bombing attacks in Britain. If an American has given money to such an organization with the knowledge and proof that they money would be used for terrorist bombings, I would be 100% for their extradition and fair trial.

However, it seems like the evidence against NORAID seems a little less against Al-Qaeda. John Walker has admitted ahead of time that he had knowledge that he would be supporting terroist attacks against Americans. I don't se that waiver/info on the NORAID website, and it's not exactly clear.

Say, if the British government declared NORAID a terrorist organization, and some Americans supported them after this declaration, then send them to trial in Britain.

[ Parent ]

MmmmmHmmmmm... (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by deefer on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 08:04:19 PM EST

it looks like to me that they are for Education and financial assistances of the wives and children of IRA people in jail.

Yep, and ANFO/C4 (later Semtex) are just *sooo* cheap to buy on the "free market", aren't they? Of course, it's for "the wives and the children", isn't it?

However, it seems like the evidence against NORAID seems a little less against Al-Qaeda.

And when was the investigation into NORAID's affairs last carried out? Never. Wouldn't want to rock the boat of our "special friends", now, would we?




Kill the baddies.
Get the girl.
And save the entire planet.

[ Parent ]

help with info please (3.00 / 1) (#34)
by eyespots on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 08:12:36 PM EST

Do you have any links with info regarding IRA and NORAID? Or perhaps you could post a story. I honestly know nothing about this organization or its links to the IRA, and if you could provide some info I'd greatly appreciate it (I hadn't heard about it until your posting).

I, for one, would have no problem with investigation of an organization like NORAID if there is evidence of wrong doing- unfortunately the special interests control our government here in the states, so I doubt it would happen if what you say is true.

Thanks in advance for the info.

[ Parent ]

OK then... (none / 0) (#61)
by deefer on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 09:07:24 AM EST

Here

And here

And here

And many more can be found here

Please be good enough to post a copy of the protest letter you'll be sending to your congress representative...


Kill the baddies.
Get the girl.
And save the entire planet.

[ Parent ]

thank you for links (none / 0) (#63)
by eyespots on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 09:34:52 AM EST

I'll check them out when I have a chance- thanks again!

[ Parent ]
He acted in good faith ? (none / 0) (#88)
by drquick on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 01:41:56 PM EST

In his case, he's accused of assisting a known terrorist organization.
[snip]
By his admission, he joined Al-queda, which he knew at the time to be a terrorist organization. By the time he joined this group, evidence had piled up
[... the rest ommitted]
It just occurred to me, what if he thought Al-Quaida was "freedom fighters". Supposse he thought of the Al-Quaida cause as a just one and as one in self defence.

Given that the prosecutor is the government of USA, there's a funny connection of past presidents calling the Taliban "freedom fighters". Thus giving cause a larger importance that methods. There are numerous other examples; the CIA traning the Shah of Iran in torture techniques (used against fundamentalist muslim movements).

So, might you not say that, if the government takes the freedom of going ahead with a policy of torture and illegal wars based on assumptions of good cause, then you can allow Walker to make such a judgement too? Including the intent to kill infidels (since, the USA intended to kill Russians without a declaration of war), he has acted in good faith with no evil intentions. Legally (which law btw - Guantanamo?), he is no more evil than the prosecutor himself. He followed his conscience as well as he could. His religion is his standard and that's protected by the constiution.

He did not think of Al-Quaida as terrorists. Does it then have any significance if Al-Quaida really is terrorist or not? Walker is on trial not Al-Quaida.

[ Parent ]

Hey, paranoiacs!!! (3.57 / 14) (#21)
by weirdling on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 05:41:04 PM EST

Aren't you guys tired of being wrong yet? 'Afghanistan can't be invaded!' Done. 'It will cause greater terrorism!' It hasn't. 'Military tribunals are illegal!' They're not. 'These guys are just soldiers, protected by the Geneva Convention!' They're not soldiers; they're not protected by anything, being 'illegal combatants', meaning spies or terrorists or other operatives that the Geneva Convention specifically does not cover, as having everyone in uniform reduces the number of dead civillians.

Now, 'John Walker, the poor boy, won't stand a fair trial!'

First, it's not 'poor boy' John Walker, it's 'traitor' John Walker. Let's get that straight. Strictly speaking, a traitor is one who engages in an activity counter to his sworn allegiance. Walker is a US citizen, and part and parcel of citizenry is swearing allegiance. You don't have to remain a citizen...

Remember this guy isn't just Taliban; he was chummy with bin Laden and part of Al Qaeda. He rendered aid and comfort to the sworn enemy of the US. That is treasonous behaviour. Ashcroft is exactly correct in this. It isn't idle rhetoric to whip the country into a frenzy; it is the *truth*.

So, the Ashcroft administration is being relatively nice to the boy because it is widely believed that he was misled. Bull. Everyone places their bets, everyone takes their chances. Everyone is responsible for their actions. Treason carries the death penalty.

Next, remember that he will face a trial by jury in the US, one of the most just jurisdictions in the world. This system lets the guilty go more often than it convicts the innocent by a wide margin. You provide no proof otherwise.

So, why not shut up, sit back, and wait to see if anything bad actually happens? Why must you continually insist the sky is falling? It hasn't yet and it isn't likely to.

Expend your efforts on something useful, like the actual, continual loss of liberty the US is facing, which I hope is only temporary and the courts will strike down.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
innocent until proven guilty (4.83 / 6) (#23)
by FredGray on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 06:05:42 PM EST

First, it's not 'poor boy' John Walker, it's 'traitor' John Walker.

No, unless and until convicted, it's 'alleged traitor' John Walker.

[ Parent ]

Truth vs. Verdicts (none / 0) (#94)
by sonovel on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 02:01:14 PM EST

The actual facts as admitted by Mr. Walker are that he _is_ a traitor.

He probably _can't_ be convicted of it, the barrier to conviction for treason is _higher_ than that of other crimes like murder.

Conviction doesn't mean "he did it" and being found innocent in court of law doesn't mean "he didn't do it".

Do I think he should get as fair a trial as is reasonable? Absolutely.

Does this mean I actually believe him innocent, given the _undisputed_ facts? Absolutely not.

"Innocent until proven guilty" is a statement having to do with how the government is allowed to act, not a statement of objective truth.

Reality doesn't change when a guilty verdict is given.

It is also a false statement for most practical purposes.

If we really considered the acussed to be innocent, we wouldn't put them in jail. We would just let them out and do nothing to try to make them come to court. They would be allowed freedom to travel just like any other person. They could leave the country if they desired.

----

Sorry if this sounds like a rant, but many use the statement "innocent until proven guilty" in a unthinking manner.



[ Parent ]
Golly! (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by ksandstr on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 06:30:05 PM EST

They're not soldiers; they're not protected by anything, being 'illegal combatants', meaning spies or terrorists or other operatives that the Geneva Convention specifically does not cover, as having everyone in uniform reduces the number of dead civillians.
... all of which makes the so-called "war on terrorism" a couple more orders of magnitude more convenient. God forbid that we'd think this was about "OK, we win, so we get to round up and execute anyone we choose" or something as unglamorous as geopolitics.

Remember this guy isn't just Taliban; he was chummy with bin Laden and part of Al Qaeda. He rendered aid and comfort to the sworn enemy of the US. That is treasonous behaviour.
Damn! That must mean the international red cross is also traitorous and (shock! horror!) UN-AMERICAN! Come to think of it, I must be one of the third-tier foreign devils, having donated money (tens of euros in the last three years) more or less directly to the red cross.

I guess I'll have to step up my support on the principle that anyone who Dubyaland deems important enough to bomb is worthy. Who knows, maybe they'll bomb Helsinki next, seeing as it's half full of traitorous, unamerican Finnish conscr^Wsoldiers who are merely dressing-up as civilians so that they wouldn't be bombed, those bastard terroristas!



Fin.
[ Parent ]
there's a big difference (4.00 / 3) (#28)
by eyespots on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 06:40:40 PM EST

You're reaching- there's a big difference between a Red Cross worker treating the wounds of an injured soldier, and a man carrying an automatic rifle around with the alleged purpose of killing American soldiers.

When an injured soldier is captured, we have to give them medical attention- does this mean we are guilty too? No, because there is a big difference between aiding an enemy with his attacks, and an aiding an enemy that has been captured or severely wounded.

[ Parent ]

monkeywhore (4.00 / 2) (#36)
by Dogun on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 08:39:11 PM EST

You, my friend, are a MONKEYWHORE. <And yes, I am referring to Super Munkey Nuts or whatever the game is called...> You see, you roll around in this ball, and you try to steer yourself, but what's this? You're still turning! Oh, no! The level is wobbling! You're gonna fall! OH NO!!!! DEAR NO!!!! NO BANANAS FOR YOU! Seriously though. The technicalities don't matter, the fact of the matter is there is a shitload of urine being dumped on that hemp paper artifact we call the Constitution. Military Trials are not in the spirit of things. Military likes things to happen nice and fast, whereas in one of those civil trials things get dragged out and guilty men sometimes walk. (Then again, innocent men still go to jail.) But regardless, everyone deserves that jury of 12, empowered not only to determine guilt, but whether the law is just, regardless of today's popular opinion. Also, remember the Taliban, although not recognized by most countries, held a pretty good claim over Afghanistan. Sort of like Sealand - are you going to accuse a Prince of Sealand of treason for aiding and abetting potential criminals by storing their data? Treason is a really, really big word, and I don't think it should ever be uttered by a politician in the US. And if anything, I'd rather see ten murderers walk than one innocent man be imprisoned. I will agree with you on this though, Civil rights headed down the drain, and we all need to be concentrating on that. Sorry about the Monkeywhore comment. I have my Coke now, I feel much better and less vindictive. Thank you Coca Cola.

[ Parent ]
Not really (none / 0) (#41)
by weirdling on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 11:29:29 PM EST

The constitution of the US only applies to US citizens, so, although random baggage searches are clearly unconstitutional, trials of foreign nationals have absolutely nothing to do with the US constitution.

They are covered by international treaties, to which Afghanistan is not a signatory, so it really does not matter.

As to morally, these people killed five thousand of my countrymen in a senseless attack. Whatever we do to them is now up to us. The thirty-some-odd interned people hardly match that...

As to monkeywhore, how much does it pay?

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Fourteenth Amendment (1.00 / 1) (#46)
by Ludwig on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 04:17:54 AM EST

The constitution of the US only applies to US citizens, so, although random baggage searches are clearly unconstitutional, trials of foreign nationals have absolutely nothing to do with the US constitution.

Please familiarize yourself with the Fourteenth Amendment, which overtly extends the protections that the Constitution provides from the Government to non-citizens. The parts of the Constitution that apply only to citizens (eligibility for office, etc.) are clearly stated as such.

I don't know where you're getting "random baggage searches" from; if you're talking about airports, the searches are conducted by private entities and voluntarily submitted to in exchange for services. The Constitution doesn't enter the picture until we inevitably federalize the airport security workers.

[ Parent ]

clarification (1.00 / 1) (#47)
by Ludwig on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 04:27:10 AM EST

To forestall any misunderstanding:

"...overtly extends the protections that the Constitution provides from the Government to non-citizens."

should have read

"...overtly extends the protections from Government that the Constitution provides to non-citizens."

Or something.

[ Parent ]

Article XIV, Section I (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by weirdling on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 05:01:30 AM EST

Seems to be the relevant quotation, reading,
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The first part simply defines the persons, showing that any person born or naturalized, or 'subject to the jurisdiction thereof', meaning, as has been interpreted, on US soil at the time of the event, are entitled to the protections.

By no consideration can these people be believed to be 'subject to the jurisdiction thereof' and only one is 'born'. Since the legal term 'jurisdiction' refers to an area or collection of people to whom a particular court has authority, we need to understand what the 'jurisdiction' of the US means.

Since Afghanistan is a sovereign nation, the US has no jurisdiction there. This was established by supreme court decisions after WWII in Germany, where the court ruled that captured POWs, war criminals, and illegal combatants are not under US jurisdiction, as they were captured externally to the US for crimes committed externally to the US. Had these committed crimes on US soil for which they were to be tried, they would be protected putatively by the fourteenth amendment.

The fourteenth amendment does, of course, incorporate the first ten, by tradition, meaning that, despite that the first reads 'Congress shall make no law', the amendment applies to any entity in the country.

Oddly enough, the fifth reads more closely for your side of the argument, which language has 'person' rather than 'citizen', but the foruteenth supercedes, and, even before the fourteenth, 'person' had been established to mean 'citizen'. Also, 'land and naval forces' are specifically exempt in the fifth, meaning that, since these people were captured as part of a military operation and are combatants, they have no recourse in the fifth, anyway...

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

As to baggage searches, you would be right if they were not *mandate* at this point by the FAA. The FAA is a federal agency; it's ability to mandate searches is proscribed by the fourth amendment quite clearly: The right of the people to be secure in their persons or property from unreasonable search and seizure etc...

It goes on to discuss 'due process', which the supreme court has recently ruled, in the case of drug searches on the highway, does not cover random searches, as there is no due process as defined by the fourth: particularly describing the articles to be searched for and the place of search. Since there is no warrant, there can be no search mandated by a federal government.

As to the idea that one enters a contract, such ideas are only valid as long as the athority performing the search is strictly corporate and as long as the corporate authority does not constitute a monopoly. In the case of airlines, for expedience, the second part has been let slide, but the first part has officially been violated.

Also, harking back to the fourteenth, remember that 'equal protection under the law' is not strictly provided by pseudorandom searches. In other words, since those searched lose time and may suffer humiliation, it can be construed that there is a cost imposed by this law, thewhich has legal precedence. Given that, random searches randomly penalise people, which is clearly not 'equal protection'. There is also legal precedence for this train of thought.
I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]

sigh, what a lot of words to say nothing ... (none / 0) (#60)
by venalcolony on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 08:13:31 AM EST

and to do so incorrectly. I'll skip the exquisite legal sophistry and Constitutional babble and cut to the chase: Everyone in the US, be they citizens or aliens, are covered by the constitution. We dont need you to tell us different because it has already been decided by the supreme court.

By the way, your posts and diaries are always confused. Try to learn your subject in depth before running at the mouth.

[ Parent ]

Your lack of English comprehension not my problem (none / 0) (#95)
by weirdling on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 02:18:56 PM EST

Of course, when you say, 'everyone in the US, be they citizens or aliens, is covered by the constitution', you are exactly correct. However, these people are neither in the US nor citizens, as the fifth specifically exempts military locations from its protections.

So, anyway, we basically agree. What was the complaint once again?

And, perhaps, had you expended a little more effort in high-school English, you'd stand a better chance of understanding what's happening around you.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Morality above law; Human dignity above revenge (4.00 / 4) (#56)
by Lord INSERT NAME HERE on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 07:04:27 AM EST

Aren't you guys tired of being wrong yet? 'Afghanistan can't be invaded!' Done.
I was one of those who doubted it could be done, but I didn't believe at the time that the US would align itself with the butchers of the Northern Alliance; I've been proven wrong, I accept this, but in my mind that US has lost far more credibility than I have by its actions.

We're all aware, of course, that the US government has funded terrorist groups in the past, and acted in many ways as a terrorist organisation itself. Its actions in Afghanistan show to me that feeling the effect of terrorist actions has done nothing to reduce America's desire to perform them.

'It will cause greater terrorism!' It hasn't.
Oh, not yet. But do you honestly think that the war in Afghanistan hasn't increased sympathies for al Qaeda's politics among people in the middle east?

'Military tribunals are illegal!' They're not.
I've never had an opinion on this personally, not being that familiar with US law in detail, but I rather feel that if it's not already illegal to have military tribunals for civilians, it ought to be illegal.

'These guys are just soldiers, protected by the Geneva Convention!' They're not soldiers; they're not protected by anything, being 'illegal combatants', meaning spies or terrorists or other operatives that the Geneva Convention specifically does not cover, as having everyone in uniform reduces the number of dead civillians.
Yay for Eurocentric international law! I think it's clear that in the spirit of the convention, if not the letter of it, the POWs should be kept in considerably better conditions than they are at present

And ignoring questions of law, ask yourself the moral question, is this right? Should combatants be teated like animals and kept in cages? Does any human deserve that? I'd hope that everyone reading this says 'no' without having to consider it for long, but I know that some will allow petty nationalism to overcome any greater sense of human dignity


--
Comics are good. Read mine. That's an order.
[ Parent ]

A couple of clarifying points (4.00 / 2) (#85)
by Erbo on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 04:03:47 PM EST

You say, "it's 'traitor' John Walker." Well, that may be "obvious" to most people, but it's certainly not that obvious in the eyes of the law...
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. (US Constitution, Article III, Section 3)
OK, given what we know of Walker's activities among the Taliban, it's pretty obvious they falls under the latter of these two definitions, if not the former (although that part might be a stretch). However, the Framers of the Constitution slipped a joker into the deck immediately following that:
No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. (US Constitution, Article III, Section 3, continued)
They had good reasons...at the time of the Revolution, charges of "high treason" were mostly used by the British monarch to imprison or kill people he didn't like, for whatever reason. However, by the Law of Unintended Consequences, it makes it damn near impossible to convict anybody of treason, no matter how much their actions may fit the definition. In Walker's case, finding two Taliban witnesses willing to testify to his acts (or able to be coerced into same) would be a virtual impossibility...assuming two such people even exist, or are still alive, or are in a position where the government could employ them as witnesses (i.e. have already been captured, rather than being free and in hiding). As for confessions...well, when a confession would probably result in Walker being strapped to a gurney and given an IV of potassium chloride, it's clearly not in his best interests to do so.

So the government's not charging him with treason. Now, can he get a fair trial, and is Ashcroft somehow keeping him from being able to do so with his public comments? Well, as anyone that's ever been on a jury knows (and yes, I've been on a jury, one that convicted a man of second-degree murder), the standard is not whether you haven't heard anything about a case, but whether you can set aside what you've heard and reach a verdict in the case based on (1) the facts presented at trial, and (2) the laws that apply to those facts. And, if you don't think you can do that, you should have the decency to let the court know during the jury-selection process, and they'll probably respond by excusing you from that jury.

If I were selected as part of the Walker jury, I would do the best I could to treat it as a problem in logic: given these facts presented at trial, and given the standard of proof that must be met that these acts were committed and that they constitute a violation of the law, were those standards met? (In the murder trial I mentioned earlier, the defendant was pretty obviously guilty of a crime, based on the testimony and evidence; we of the jury had to decide exactly what he was guilty of. It came down to a choice between second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter, and we wound up siding for the former. First-degree murder wasn't really an option, as premeditation wasn't an issue here.) Anything Ashcroft said before the trial wouldn't be a consideration. (Or during, for that matter, as it's unlikely he'd prosecute the case himself.)

Like you, weirdling, I find it more distressing that people are concentrating on the rights of one person, who, given what he's done, deserves to be given some form of punishment, rather than on the loss of liberty for the rest of us, who've done nothing wrong. I know that it'll probably be a long time before I willingly get on a commercial airline flight again, given the hassle factor that's been added to air travel. And "writing your representatives" seems like such a waste of time to me, given that they're all either falling over each other trying to rally 'round the flag, or else they're bought and paid for by the special interests that have more money that I'll ever see in my life, or both. To quote Jerry Pournelle, "But we were born free."

Eric
--
Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996. http://www.electricminds.org
[ Parent ]

The sad truth (4.37 / 8) (#26)
by jayfoo2 on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 06:34:39 PM EST

The said truth is that this is America. It is quite likely that 12 people who have never heard of John Walker, The Taliban, or Afghanistan can be empanled as a jury.

Whether or not people who fit that description should decide if someone should spend their life in jail is a different issue entirely.

Seems to be a curse on the name... (2.00 / 1) (#27)
by SvnLyrBrto on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 06:40:13 PM EST

Anyone else remember the Walker family spy ring?

The ringleader was ANOTHER John Walker, who worked to undermine the US, not only by giving naval crypto codes to the soviets, but coerced his family into continuing to do so even after he left the navy.

Every time I hear the name "John Walker" I think of the spy ring before the taliban.

Gotta wonder what the family was thinking. *I* sure wouldn't name any kid of mine after a spy and traitor. Kind of ironic that this John Walker decided to live up to his namesake.

cya,
john

Imagine all the people...

uhhh (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by relarson on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 09:56:09 PM EST

Lets see you want us to belive that John Walker accused Taliban member, age 20 is named after a spy who was indicted when he was 4 years old?
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - For most of his short life, 20-year-old John Walker Lindh seemed to be yet another California kid on a voyage of self-discovery.
Reuters story
1985 - John Anthony Walker and his son, Michael Lance Walker, were indicted 28 May by a Federal grand jury in Baltimore on six counts of espionage.
walker spy story

-Rich
Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow;
He who would search for pearls must dive below.
--John Dryden,

    All for Love

[ Parent ]
Some historical persective, please! (4.50 / 8) (#35)
by kokopelli2012 on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 08:25:11 PM EST

Turn off your monitor, find a few dozen appropriate books to read, and get a grip.

An "unbiased" jury originally meant people who were not directly affected by the criminal act. It should also not have members who prejudiced in some way, e.g, if you think the defendant raped your sister, you probably would not make a good juror. But the same juries often included first-hand witnesses to the crime. Who would better know when someone is lying?

I think most of us would agree that eliminating first-hand witnesses from jury pools is overall a Good Thing, but the idea that only people ignorant of the events can be jurors is not. Jury trials are always a complex balancing act designed to minimize the number of errors, and any attempt to put any single aspect (is everyone ignorant? Is the ethnic mix an exact match of the community?, etc.) is implicitly a willingness to surrender that real balance to an illusion of balance.

As for Ashcroft's comments being a problem, would you really prefer to live in a country where the DA is expected to routinely prosecute people what he doesn't think are guilty? John Walker Lind is benefitting fully from the legal presumption of innocence precisely because he is getting a trial despite freely admitting his acts to both US authorities and the media. At any other time in history he would have been executed for his criminal acts months ago, but we're actually going to put him on trial so he can try to defend his actions. But anyone who understands the law in question knows that it's virtually certain that he can't defend his actions. Ashcroft certainly knows this, most of the viewers know this (hell, anyone who watches <u>Law & Order</u> has seen several criminal conspiracy and felony murder cases).

If the judge made a statement like this before the trial, there would be a reason to be concerned. But not when the prosecutor does, and especially not when John Walker Lind confessioned to CNN on board a US aircraft carrier.

If you cant say something nice.... (2.66 / 3) (#37)
by imrdkl on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 08:59:32 PM EST

Then it's probably best to just refuse comment.

Mr. Ashcrofts words, while not having read them myself, may in fact lead to a more difficult jury selection process, and possibly even an eventual mistrial/reversal if it's found that any juror was in fact, tainted by them.

I know he (Ashcroft) is under alot of pressure to deliver justice, but I suspect that somewhere down the line he will regret more than just the harsh statements he's made about this stupid kid, lately. Defending the 2nd amendment, while trampling the others, and rebuking congress to their faces for asking questions about it will certainly make a highlight on his resume, I believe.

In any case, when the time comes for twelve of our countrymen to sit down and judge this case, I believe the mob mentality will be long gone. And I hope that only the truth will remain.

The charges are substantiated (3.80 / 5) (#42)
by jwwiener on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 12:14:06 AM EST

Ashcroft did not say anything inappropriate or prejudicial. Ashcroft merely stated charges that can be substantiated by evidence. There is nothing inappropriate about prosecution making comments about a defendant's guilt as long as they will be substantiated during the trial. Likewise, it is not prejudicial for the prosecution to make comments about a defendant's guilt prior to the verdict being rendered. This is commonly done during opening arguments of a trial.

The issue of "media prejudice/jury prejudice" needs to be dealt with only when the jury is likely to hear things that cannot be admitted into evidence. This usually occurs when media prints third-party hearsay, gossip, etc., prior to trial. During the OJ trial, for instance, the jury was sequestered because the media was printing stories of his spousal abuse. These stories were not admitted into evidence because details of the stories could not be verified. At that time it was feared that the jurors might conclude that if he were violent enough to beat his wife, then he was violent enough to kill her. However, if the facts of the stories could not be verified, then some of the stories might not have been true. Therefore, the jury might have been influenced to form an opinion of OJ's guilt based on things they read in a newspaper that may or may not have been true.

A hypothetical analog to Walker's case is if the media started printing stories from classmates about how he repeatedly said that he hated America, or that he laughed when he heard about Oklahoma City, etc. Even if such stories were found to be true they could not be admitted into evidence because they do not prove that he supported the Taliban. In that case, people might be prejudiced into believing that he obviously supported the Taliban because he hates America, right? Again, this is a conjecture, not a conclusion.

Based on the commentary I have read so far, I am fairly certain that, despite Ashcroft's comments, John Walker Lindh will not have trouble finding 12 jurors with no strong opinion on his case, who are willing to hear all the evidence before forming an opinion of his guilt.

I'm not a lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night. :)

The American Flaw (3.25 / 4) (#44)
by futility on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 02:24:21 AM EST

... that we would even pretend to grant this person
a trial. I assure you, I will not vote for any
representative who supported spending my tax dollars
on John Walker's trial.

1) This person took up arms against his former
home country.

Well, that's enough for me to /not/ grant him any
rights of citizenship, but I guess I'm just not
as high and fucking righteous as our collective
spineless society. This whole thing really
just pisses me off, sorry.

b

"Rights have no value if they can't be taken away."
- damon brent verner


Who says he did? (4.00 / 6) (#54)
by bartmoss on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 05:49:13 AM EST

He took up arms against Afghans, ie the Northern Alliance. It's not like he and his fellow Taliban members picked up guns and tried an invasion of, say, Florida. I am not saying he is an innocent man - that is for the courts to decide - but branding him a traitor AND denying him a chance for a fair trial - as you do - is just perverse and barbaric. Have you ever considered that this behaviour actually proves the terrorists of september right in retrospect? If the US of A is really an oppressive nation where no-one can get a fair and open trial, ruled by an executive who twists about laws, and endangers the world's security by abolishing or failing to ratify vital global treaties, then afterall the US *IS* the villain and needs to be fought! Yes, this is an overstatement, but just consider the implications of abolishing checks & balances and due process of the law. The US would become a facist regime.

Hitler used mock trials too to get his opponents executed or imprisoned, you know? Mob justice is NOT the answer. The RIGHT thing to do would be to send Walker and Al Qaeda to war crimes tribunal in The Hague or any other international court. Arguably, no court in the US is impartial enough to rule in these cases. IANAL.

[ Parent ]
Even included the Nazi- bonus points (none / 0) (#59)
by Woundweavr on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 08:11:34 AM EST

Say this slowly outloud : "He admitted to it."

Walker admitted to working for/with both the Taliban and Al Queda. And noone is denying him a fair trial. Hell even though he was caught red handed and he's confessed we're giving him a civilian trial.

<quote>He took up arms against Afghans, ie the Northern Alliance. It's not like he and his fellow Taliban members picked up guns and tried an invasion of, say, Florida. </quote>

And since you brought the Nazis in at the end I'll use them as a counterexample. In WWII, say some Americans went to Germany to fight for the Nazis, who wound soon be at war with America. They were fighting Americans, against America. The Nazis never even attacked America but would you consider someone who went over the Nazis a traitor? Are you gonna say the Taliban is different cause they are such nice guys?

The charges are as follows :

Conspiring to kill US nationals outside of the US.
Providing support and resources to Al Qaeda.
Forbidden transactions with the Taliban

Read the affidavit. Walker's own confession is that he was a member of Al Queda, trained with Al Queda , received a weapon to fight for the Taliban, went to the front lines and remained there after September 11, and escaped detainment during the prison uprisings that resulted in the death of a CIA agent.

With his own admittance, it seems that claiming he didnt get a fair trial is ludicrous. Maybe thats because it is.

[ Parent ]

And according to CNN (4.50 / 2) (#70)
by jd on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 12:40:51 PM EST

That "confession" was made after 45 days of sustained interrogation with no representation permitted. He has no access to the lawyer his family hired, and his family don't even know if he's aware that such a lawyer exists!

Confessions made under duress are generally not considered reliable evidence in court.

Should it transpire that Mr Walker was subject to psychological or physical torture, to force the confession, I hope that those opposed to terrorism will equally show their opposition to State-sanctioned terrorism.

[ Parent ]

the CNN interview (5.00 / 2) (#72)
by eyespots on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 01:07:13 PM EST

Many of the charges against John Walker were from the CNN interview he gave. See the affadavit.

Secondly, he had representation permitted. All he had to do was request an attorney. But he didn't. He waived his rights.

Thirdly, the figure for "45 days of interogation" are from the lawyer the family hired. How does he know how many days if he hasn't even been in contact with John Walker? We also don't know if he's forbidden from receiving information from his parents.

I'm not saying you should believe every single thing the government is saying- but on the other hand you shouldn't outright accept any information regarding the mistreatment of him when it is unreliable. I would be in favor of the press actually getting some access to him to see his state. Hopefully this will address issues of mistreatment.

I for one, will be interested for the trial to begin and see if he tries to fight his own confessions.

On your last point, I support you 100%- if he has been physical tortured, I'd be angry and would fully support action against the agency and people responsible.

[ Parent ]

Torture (none / 0) (#91)
by bartmoss on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 04:45:43 AM EST

>On your last point, I support you 100%- if he >has been physical tortured, I'd be angry and >would fully support action against the agency >
>and people responsible.

Just a reminder; non-physical torture can be just as bad, if not worse.



[ Parent ]
Also an interview from CNN (none / 0) (#75)
by Woundweavr on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 05:32:43 PM EST

Walker has also given CNN a taped interview less than a week after his capture.

<quote>Still other times, the 20-year-old American showed his allegiance to the Islamic state. Referring to jihad, he said, "It's exactly what I thought it would be."

Asked if it was the right cause, Walker said, "Definitely." </quote>

Walker also admits in both that he was given a choiceto fight in Kashmir or Afghanistan. He admits that he learned of the terrorist attacks over the summer. He was trained with Al Queda and me Osama bin Laden, according to his own confessions.

If he was abused/tortured, thats a whole different issue. Considering the publicity I find it unlikely but it could have happened. However, no evidence has been put forth about this other than the word of his defense lawyer, and he only testified about being 45 days w/out a lawyer.

[ Parent ]

Doesn't count (none / 0) (#90)
by bartmoss on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 04:43:10 AM EST

>Walker admitted to working for/with both the >Taliban and Al Queda. And noone is denying him a >fair trial. Hell even though he was caught red >handed and he's confessed we're giving him a >civilian trial.

As it should be. Now, when will the other prisoners get the same?

Even the notion that a man does not deserve a fair trial makes me feel sick.

>And since you brought the Nazis in at the end >I'll use them as a counterexample. In WWII, say >some Americans went to Germany to fight for the >Nazis, who wound soon be at war with America. >They were fighting Americans, against America. >The Nazis never even attacked America but would >you consider someone who went over the Nazis a >traitor? Are you gonna say the Taliban is >different cause they are such nice guys?

The Taliban are NOT nice guys. And no, as long as the Third Reich was not attacking the US, someone who worked for them would not be a traitor. Mental, yes, bastards, yes, but traitors? I don't think so.

Counter example. Quite a few Germans joined the allies and fought against Germany. Traitors? Yes, definitely. But evil men? Hardly.

You see, it's all a matter of perspective.

>Conspiring to kill US nationals outside of the >US.
>Providing support and resources to Al Qaeda.
>Forbidden transactions with the Taliban

>Read the affidavit. Walker's own confession is >that he was a member of Al Queda, trained with >Al Queda , received a weapon to fight for the >Taliban, went to the front lines and remained >there after September 11, and escaped detainment >during the prison uprisings that resulted in the >death of a CIA agent.


Transactions with Taliban wasn't illegal when he joined them. By the time it was, he might not have been able to just leave. He might not have had enough information to know what was really going on. Who knows? He could be unaccountable for his actions due to mental problems ("Gee whiz this is all a big game of paintball").

Just because someone confesses doesn't mean they waive their right to a fair and open trial.

>With his own admittance, it seems that claiming >he didnt get a fair trial is ludicrous. Maybe >thats because it is.

No, not at all. In fact, people who argue like you do are the best proof that the situation in the US is inherently baised and hostile towards such individuals.



[ Parent ]
Islamic Justice (none / 0) (#68)
by darthaggie on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 12:07:59 PM EST

He took up arms against Afghans, ie the Northern Alliance. It's not like he and his fellow Taliban members picked up guns and tried an invasion of, say, Florida.

Oh, so he didn't read his US Passport?

Loss of Nationality. You may lose your U. S. nationality by being...or by taking an oath or making a declaration of allegiance to, a foreign state; or by serving in the armed forces...under the government of a foreign state...For detailed information, consult the nearest American embassy or consulate.

He has voluntarily given up his US citizenship. As such, he can't be a traitor. However, we should give him back to the Afghanis - as you note, he took up arms against Afghans - and allow them to subject him to the tender mercies of an Islamic court.

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

The US (4.00 / 2) (#71)
by jd on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 12:45:04 PM EST

never recognised the Taliban Government, and never declared war. That's why the other prisoners are not considered PoWs.

Since he didn't join any "army" the US recognised, or swear aliegence to any "government" the US recognised, his nationality cannot be revoked on the grounds you state.

There must be no double standards, here. You cannot claim one set of events occured, for one set of prisoners, but that a totally different set of events occured for another.

[ Parent ]

US never declared war (none / 0) (#93)
by drquick on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 08:12:31 AM EST

I didn't bring it up earlier, because I thought it was just a legal technicality.

The USA attacked Afghanistan without declaring war. This is a violation of International law. It seems that the USA has itself committed a crime and can thus not convict the Taliban to international laws.

[ Parent ]

Just one coment. (2.75 / 4) (#45)
by mindstrm on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 02:52:43 AM EST

If you want to talk about the American Justice System's "Shattered Credibility" I suggest you have a look around the world.

Now.. I'm not saying it doesn't need improvement. It's GOOD to keep an eye on it and exert pressure to push it towards perfection.

But.. having lived in a few places around the world... if I were ever to be arrested, I'll take the US justice system over just about anywhere else.


Been around eh? (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by caine on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 04:56:39 AM EST

If you actually had a clue about other countries legal systems I don't think you'd be so quick to dismiss them. The US legal systems have several flaws, where the two largest are:
  • Too few laws - Yes, this may seem suprising, but having as few laws as the US does, it has to rely alot more on the jury and judge, making legal defense more like show-business than anything else. This is also unfortunate because it means that there will be great variation in sentences over the country, and even in the same court, just because it's a different jury. All in all it makes for unfair judgements, putting to much power in the hands of those 13 persons (judge + you have 12 people in the jury? or something like that). People should be judged by the law, not other people.
  • Far too political - If the recent election proved anything it's that there's far too much politics in your legal system. Since you have as few laws as you do, as stated above, it's often that matters go up, higher and higher, in your courts, ultimately being decided in the Supreme court, which is virtually an all political institution. Which, once again, it shouldn't be. Differing political opinions shouldn't affect rulings, only the law should.

--

[ Parent ]

legal systems are always political (none / 0) (#53)
by gregholmes on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 05:42:34 AM EST

In a democracy, laws are created by elected representatives.

The philosophy of the judge (his politics) affects how he interprets law. He can either use plain meaning of the text and original intent of the enactors, or he can use his sensitive gut. Usually, but not always, the politics of the judge is determined by the politics of the appointer of the judge.

How else would you do it? Require the approval of a political group (a lawyer's association)? That's still politics.

The U.S. system is a nice balance of democracy while avoiding mob rule.



[ Parent ]
Australian taliban fighter (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by bobothy on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 07:47:24 AM EST

There was also an Australian fighting for the taliban- I can't remember his name though. Originally we were planning to extradite him from the US (where he's being held) back here to face trial, but Under our system he could likely walk free.

Under Australian law, for someone to be sentenced as a traitor, they have to be fighting for an enemy that the government has officially declared we are at war with. No one actually declared war on Afghanistan- so technicaly he wasn't breaking any major laws, and any competant lawyer could see him walk free.

(Interestingly enough, the only crime that we allow the death penalty for is treason, and the perpetrator is supposed to be executed by hanging)

David Hicks (none / 0) (#77)
by Robert S Gormley on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 06:24:01 PM EST

Is his name...

He could likely walk free... as, IMHO, he should. He committed no crime in Australia against Australian law. We have no jurisdiction. Nor does the US, if you ask me.

My father's boss is the person whose job description technically entails him carrying out any hangings in such cases. He has the hangman's mask in his office. However, his opinion is that he would resign if ever such a case came about.

[ Parent ]

Afghanistan has jurisdiction (none / 0) (#78)
by zeda on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 08:33:57 PM EST

His crimes were against them.
And no, he probably isn't a solider in the sense that he would lay down his weapons and not commit acts of violence in the future, as most soldiers do after a war.



[ Parent ]
Afghanistan doesnt have jurisdiction over sh*t (none / 0) (#96)
by dbc001 on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 05:39:46 PM EST

I would think that any world power could go in and decide the fate of almost any conflict in afghanistan, whether it is about foreigners fighting on their soil or two peasants fighting over who owns a goat.

If we (or any other world power) want jurisdiction over anything in afghanistan, we can have it.

-dbc

[ Parent ]
Facist! (none / 0) (#98)
by drquick on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 08:03:55 AM EST

I would think that any world power could go in and decide the fate of almost any conflict in afghanistan, whether it is about foreigners fighting on their soil or two peasants fighting over who owns a goat.

If we (or any other world power) want jurisdiction over anything in afghanistan, we can have it.

Is this your idea of justice and law?

What if I said that the US government has no jurisdiction in America since you are all over the world just looking for blood. At home all indians are dead. Um.. more than 50% of all tribes that is, much more. Nuke Washington - we can have it!

But then again maybe you meant justice by the bigger gun not by Americas moral superiority.

[ Parent ]

Idiot! (none / 0) (#99)
by dbc001 on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 01:50:31 PM EST

Is this your idea of justice and law?

That's how it is, not how it should be.

At home all indians are dead. Um.. more than 50% of all tribes that is, much more.

Guess what? The US Government had (and still does have) jurisdiction over native americans. Game over. If I were to post a comment about the power that native americans have, the subject would be Native Americans dont have jurisdiction over sh*t. They are powerless, like it or not.

The moral of the story:
Don't go calling people names and making up accusations, it makes you look like a jackass.

The other moral of the story:
Nitpicking about laws won't help John Walker, or any terrorist (or any non-terrorist that the government accuses of being such). If the US wants to fuck you, you will get fucked. John Walker is fucked.

-dbc

[ Parent ]
Who is the "jackass"? (none / 0) (#101)
by drquick on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 04:43:16 AM EST

What the heck do native Americans have to do with you thinking that American law applies everywhere. It is a fascist idea to think you can "democratically" legislate laws for Afghanistan. Where really, did you pick up that argument about Americans, native such?
I would think that any world power could go in and decide the fate of almost any conflict in afghanistan, whether it is about foreigners fighting on their soil or two peasants fighting over who owns a goat.

If we (or any other world power) want jurisdiction over anything in afghanistan, we can have it.
And I still don't think I'm a "jackass" if I say the above quote from your comment is facist. Your comment is just no different from Nazi justifications (read Chamberlain). Tell me now that, you think Americans are the 'Herrenvolk'? For once, I thought you would get the obvious point! It's chocking that you dare to stick to it!

[ Parent ]
*LOL* IAAL (3.80 / 5) (#65)
by SPYvSPY on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 09:58:08 AM EST

Dear jd: As a lawyer, your article cracks me up.

You accuse Mr. Ashcroft of *almost* publicly accusing Walker of treason, and the concludes that Ashcroft is making statements in public that (a) are not related to the charges being brought against Walker, and (b) are intended to be inflammatory rather than to merely inform the public as to the merits of the case. And then, (AND THEN!) the author concludes that no fair trial of Mr. Walker is possible, on the grounds that Mr. Ashcroft has tainted the entire potential jury pool.

First question: Has there ever been a newsworthy public criminal trial that wasn't accompanied by a statement from the prosecutor's office? I doubt there has. Second question: What are the boundaries that a prosecutor must respect when making such a public statement? Presumably (and I don't know the answer for sure (since IANA(criminal)L)), Mr. Ashcroft may only restate the allegations in the charges being brought against Mr. Walker. Did Ashcroft go further? I don't think so. You don't indicate anywhere in your article that he did. You only say that he *nearly* called Walker a traitor. It was on the tip of his tongue, according to you. Did Aschroft stay in bounds? Yes, I think so. Prosecutors are free to argue their case in public before the trial, as are defense attorneys. The process of voire dire is designed to eliminate biased jurors. If a person is susceptible to Mr. Ashcroft's rhetoric in the public forum, that person will be just as susceptible in the jury box. Mere exposure to prosecutorial (or defense) rhetoric is not disqualifying bias. Why haven't you accused Mr. Walker's defense attorney (who has been on a public campaign for innocence for weeks) of tainting the jury pool?

All political agendas aside (and you have one, whether you'll admit it or not), you really need to stop being ignorant about the law. All you have to do is pick up a goddamn book and read a few pages here and there. It will help you avoid looking like a cretinous imbecile. Since I said IAAL, I have to say that this is not intended as legal advice. Here's to hoping you remedy your blissful ignorance soon. HAND, SPYvSPY
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Since you are a lawyer... (5.00 / 1) (#73)
by jd on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 01:23:50 PM EST

You will be familiar with the following concepts:

  • Confessions under duress
  • Perjury
  • The Right to Representation
  • Kangaroo Courts
  • Trial By Media
  • The Right to an Unbiased Jury
  • Double Jepordy
  • Contempt of Court
  • Tampering with Witnesses

It is of no consequence whether it is normal for the plaintiff to make public pronouncements before a trial or not. It is not for the plaintiff to pass judgement. Indeed, the plaintiff has no business making statements at all. If Mr Ashcroft has something to say, let him say it in court, subject to the normal rules of cross-examination. If a judge decided that such publicity would impede the trial, the judge would be entirely within their rights to have the case thrown out. Indeed, since I can't see how the publicity could even be intended for anything other than the deliberate impediment to an unbiased trial, I sincerely hope that the judge DOES refuse the case.

And that is an important point. The DOJ is merely a plaintiff. Nothing more, nothing less, with no special rights, but a whole bunch of regulations on accepted procedure. I don't know those regulations, but I can bet that more than one has been transgressed. And that could be enough to destroy this case.

The next point is that Mr Walker's waiving of his Miranda Rights, and "confession" were apparently after 45 days of sustained interrogation. That counts as duress, IMHO, and again may be sufficient for the judge to rule that confession inadmissable in court.

Tampering with witnesses is a major no-no, in a legal battle. The defence could build a fairly strong case that the pre-trial publicity and the extraordinary conditions both he and the other prisoners are being held under constitutes tampering with witnesses. All they would have to show is that a potential defence witness, under interrogation, was offered an inducement to lie under oath, make false statements, or otherwise present false evidence against Mr Walker. Depending on the judge, they might not even have to show that such an inducement was accepted by anyone. Indeed, even the possibility that such an inducement -may- have been offered could cripple any prosecution evidence based on prisoner statements.

The right to representation is also an important point. The fact that no representation for Mr Walker was permitted, during the interrogation, and that the Red Cross have been unable to communicate with, or deliver letters to, Mr Walker, from either his family or the lawyer his family hired, would seem to weaken the prosecution's case still further. It wouldn't be the first time that someone was subjected to conditions so severe that they were willing to confess to anything. And the various released photographs of Mr Walker would seem to indicate a deteriorating condition.

This trial should be in the Hague, as should those of the other prisoners, unless it is sincerely proposed that the prisoners be shipped next to Britain, and then to each and every other nation involved in the war, for trial. No? Thought not. This was an International conflict, not a local dispute. By right, this belongs in an International Court. The attempt to have the assorted trials in "friendly" territory, rather than on neutral ground, can only fuel the defence, should they argue that the trial can no longer be just or lawful.

[ Parent ]

You're just making this up as you go... (none / 0) (#83)
by SPYvSPY on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 10:59:08 AM EST

You say the prosecution* has no special rights. And then you say that the prosecution shouldn't be able to make public statements outside the court. And then you say that there is no reason to make such public statements except to taint the jury pool. All three of these statements are false.

The prosecution in this case is the highest levels of the DOJ. They have a special duty to keep the public informed about their work. The policy of transparency in government is what makes it not only okay, but a good thing, that Ashcroft is talking publicly about the case. The fact that he uses rhetoric that supports his case is no different that a small town DA that restates his allegations against an accused murderer on the local TV news. It's a statement of the prosecution's position. It's effect may be offset by whatever public statements the defense chooses to make. The point is that there is a valid public policy supporting the right of prosecutors in general to speak publicly about their cases. The DOJ has no special rights, but is in a special circumstance that might demand even more careful attention to the public impression of this case, which is why you've seen Ashcroft speaking publicly about this Walker case.

You argue that Walker's waiver of his Miranda rights was forced. Maybe so -- it's a matter for the defense to refuse, attempt to prove, for the jury/judge to rule on, and is really not a matter for your judgment at all. You can bet the defense will make the argument. Will they win? From what I'm hearing, no. But the facts might change -- or the arguments might be so skillful and compelling that the judge will toss out the charges. Why would you presume to short circuit the judicial system before it has a chance to rule on what you apparently consider an "open and shut" matter.

You allege that witnesses are being tainted. Again, why would you presume to deny the finders of fact (judge/jury) their right to rule on the veracity and credibility of the witnesses and their statements? Don't you think that the defense would raise your arguments in the trial? Don't you think that the DOJ knows this, and is apparently not concerned that their actions are going to result in a mistrial ruling?

Finally, you challenge the jurisdiction of the US courts, arguing that the Hague is the proper venue of this trial due to the internation character of the conflict. I'm no expert in jurisdiction, but you can bet at least one of the defense lawyers will be. Once again, let the defense make its arguments at trial. My impression is that the US has every right to try Walker on criminal charges. Walker surrendered himself to the US. The US has him in custody. If there are compelling reasons to move him to another forum, they will be considered and ruled on at trial. In any event, you have provided ZERO authority for your claim that the US has no jurisdiction other than your outrageous and insulting claim that US courts are unfair "kangaroo" courts. US courts are the fairest, most principled, most sophisticated, most enlightened judiciary in the history of Mankind. Period. If you had any concept of the volume of litigation and the sheer magnitude of the intelligence, insight, breadth of knowledge, nobility and impartiality of our judiciary, you would be severly humbled.

I get the feeling that you don't know much about the law, but that you fear its power. You should really conquer that fear by getting some knowledge about how the law really works. It only took me three years of studying. What about you? What makes you an expert? Why do you have anything to say about this subject? Where are your credentials that allow you to attack the character of American judges and jurors (and witnesses)?

If I sounded harsh in my earlier message, it's because I don't have any respect for people that speak loudly with fear in their voices.

*BTW -- "Plaintiff" is generally only used to describe a civil litigant.
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[ Parent ]

I know (5.00 / 1) (#92)
by jd on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 04:38:43 PM EST

...that the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad suffered a severe and thorough investigation, in the UK, due to professional misconduct, and that virtually everyone that they arrested was released on appeal, on the grounds that their trials were biased and tainted.

...that the investigative journalism of "Rough Justice" found hundreds of UK criminal cases tainted by the manipulation of the public. A classic example was that of the "Birmingham Six", all of whom were released after something like 20 years in jail, for a crime they never commited. (Well, 5 were. One died in jail, a maligned, abused victim of slander by vote-seeking blood-suckers who hid under the same guise you talk of - "public information".)

How is this related? The "Birmingham Six" were alleged terrorists, who were supposed to have commited one of the most heinious acts of terror that Mainland Britain had experienced since World War II - the bombing of a Birmingham pub, killing several soldiers and civilians.

The publicity given to the event made a fair trial impossible from the start. That the evidence was flimsy to non-existant was ignored. The jury were way too psyched-up to allow such details to stop them.

They weren't the first do suffer from pre-trial manipulation, and they weren't the last. The pressure on the police to secure convictions, and the pressure on the politicians to show results (even if they weren't real), ensured spineless corruption, decadance and perversion of justice, within much of Britain.

THAT is why, when I see the US doing the same thing, I know the result will also be the same. You can run, but you can't hide from the monster you've created.

Am I scared of the US legal system? No. Why should I be? Fear is a far worse enemy than anything mere people can construct. Fear is the only real enemy there is. Virtually no evil on Earth could exist without the fuel of fear. You can run from people, places or things, but whatever fear you carry will always be with you. You can never escape it - not by running and not by feeding it.

The fear that Ashcroft is drumming up is deadlier than all the bombs, bullets and aircraft in the world. Because without fear, nobody would ever dream of using those bombs, bullets or aircraft in a malicious way. "We have seen the enemy, and it is us." For a Roman commentary, that was damn close to the truth.

If David Koresh had not been an addict, drunk on fear, he would never have stockpiled weapons, killed Government agents, or abused those in his care. If the FBI hadn't been equally drunk on fear, they would never have used tanks to quash a petty gathering of drop-outs and losers. Fear created Waco, and then fear destroyed it.

You want to see an end to terrorism? An end to senseless violence and abuse? An end to serial killings and racist gangs? Well, too bad. You won't. You can't do a damn thing about other people. But you CAN root out your fear and stuff it down the garbage disposal. You CAN also make it harder for fear to spread like a deadly, contageous disease, by demanding that public servents honor the principle of "Innocent until Proven Guilty", in thought and deed, and by encouraging the media to be neutral and unbiased in all its dealings.

On Martin Luther King, Jr.'s day of remembrance, let's remember that dreams don't happen by themselves, and America is as tainted by fear as anywhere, but that it's only that way because we choose for it to be that way. It's our choice. I just think most Americans make lousy choices.

[ Parent ]

As I am not a lawyer (none / 0) (#74)
by Vicegrip on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 03:53:26 PM EST

"It will help you avoid looking like a cretinous imbecile. [...]. Here's to hoping you remedy your blissful ignorance soon."

Is the type of language and tone that causes me to immediately question the very idea that your rebuttal deserves any kind of consideration.

America's treatment of the prisonners taken from Afganistan is going to be the bar by which many other countries measure their own treatment of accused people.

Let me assure you that many people, myself included, from other countries are taking note with great interest of this interpretation the Bush administration is making that constitutionally guranteed rights don't apply to none US citizens.

You may not find offensive this 'trial by media' mongering American jurispriduence seems to be heading full steam into, but I do; I also find it very sad.

Freedom should not be dependant on nationality.

[ Parent ]
Civil court? (none / 0) (#79)
by Refrag on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 12:39:42 AM EST

WTF? Shouldn't this be handled by the military?

Refrag

Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches

Undeclared War (4.00 / 2) (#86)
by anansi on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 04:52:27 AM EST

I'm wondering how it is that this trial can go forward in any court, when the US has not officially declared war on Afghanistan. It takes an act of Congress to do that, and the president has to go to congress to keep the purse strings open after a certain length of time.

In a similar vein, I'm cuirous about the definition of "unlawful combatants" for those prisoners of not-war in Guantamino Bay. If they're unlawful, then presumably they broke some law. The US can't draw on international law here, because we're violating that every step of the way. Has Congress passed a law making it illegal for foriegn nationals to attack US soil?

The twisted jargon is making my head spin.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"

Huh? (none / 0) (#100)
by dreamsmith on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 12:53:51 AM EST

Your comments make no sense. John Walker stands accused of aiding terrorists and attempting to kill Americans. What does whether a declared war existed or not have to do with these charges?

As for the "unlawful combatants", it is in fact unlawful for anyone (regardless of what country they are citizens of) to attempt to kill Americans. I'm not sure why you think their status as foreign nationals would exempt them, but both American law and court precedent make it clear that the US can convict murderers of murder, regardless of citizenship.


[ Parent ]
Specific charges dont matter (none / 0) (#97)
by dbc001 on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 05:45:26 PM EST

John Walker is a traitor, whether he fits the legal definition or not. We dont like him, we will punish him however we can, whether it is for treason or illegal possession of firearms while in the presence of a militia against american soldiers.

a similar situation:
you are walking around town and see a policeman. you decide to insult the policeman, since it's a free country. The policeman doesnt like you. since he cant arrest for insulting him, he gets you on disturbing the peace. guess what? your still fucked.

-dbc

The mysterious case of the American Taliban | 101 comments (98 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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