Thursday, October 7, 2010

Terrorist Trials That Guarantee A 'Guilty' Verdict

The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, constructs elaborate courtroom procedures to permit... indeed, insist upon... such trials, with nothing resembling the due process guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Glenn Greenwald discusses such deplorable practices in his post Opposition to the rule of law.

Fortunately, in the case of Ahmed Ghailani, whose trial Greenwald discusses, at least one judge still sees torture as tainting the process apart from the manner in which it affects the trial. Ghailani was (the government stipulates) abused in a CIA "black site" to obtain the name of a witness against him; the judge did not throw out the charges, but rather forbade the government from using information or testimony from that witness.

As America resorts to show trials, to torture to obtain testimony, to indefinite detention of alleged terrorists without trial, or after trial even if they have been acquitted, I begin to think of the great Langston Hughes, in particular, of his 1938 poem Let America be America Again, in which variations of one thought serve as a refrain: "(America never was America to me.)" As long as certain classes of people can be tried in Star Chamber courts, with tainted evidence, with no possibility of an acquittal no matter what the facts reveal, and with the possibility that a wayward Executive branch can simply detain someone for life without any kind of meaningful due process... as long as those things happen, America is not America to me.

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