The Politics of Fear

Discuss whats going around the World in this board.
Post Reply
Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:24 pm

The Politics of Fear

Post by Samar » Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:47 pm

Here is an interesting article that my law proff shared.

An election is coming, so the Republicans are trying to scare Americans by making it appear as if the Democrats don’t care about catching or punishing terrorists.

It’s nonsense, of course, but effective. The be-very-afraid approach helped former President George W. Bush ram laws through Congress that chipped away at Americans’ rights. He used it to get re-elected in 2004. Now the Republicans are playing the fear card for the fall elections.

The most recent target is the Obama administration’s handling of the failed Christmas Day bomber, particularly its decision (an absolutely correct one) to have the F.B.I. arrest and interrogate the suspect and file federal terrorism charges rather than throw him into a military prison where the Republicans seem to expect that he would be given no rights, questioned and held without charges.

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, suggested — without any evidence — that vital intelligence was lost by that approach. Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, told Politico that he wants to block financing for civilian trials of terrorism suspects so Republicans can brag about it this fall. He said “the core question is whether the attorney general of the United States ought to be in charge of the war on terror.”

As Mr. McConnell should know perfectly well, that is not the question at all, core or otherwise. The Obama administration has embraced the idea of using military tribunals for some terrorism suspects. The Christmas bombing suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was arrested in the United States. The American justice system does not allow people arrested in the United States for serious offenses to be detained and held without access to an attorney.

It is good that the administration is pushing back.

In a five-page letter to Mr. McConnell, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said that the handling of Mr. Abdulmutallab followed the sensible practices of presidents of both parties. Although Mr. Abdulmutallab stopped talking at one point, he has since begun cooperating, according to administration officials. Law enforcement agents know that many defendants talk after being told of their right to remain silent, Mr. Holder noted.

Republicans like to say that Mr. Obama is giving new rights to terrorists. But Mr. Holder’s letter noted that the Bush administration prosecuted more than 300 people on terrorism-related charges in federal courts without a whiff of complaint from those same Republicans. He said those included Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber; Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted of involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks; the man charged with plotting to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge; and another who schemed to bomb the Los Angeles airport.

The Republican propaganda is a distraction from the real issue: that the counterterrorism system is malfunctioning more than eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Like many of the nation’s other problems, Mr. Obama inherited this one. For eight years, Congress failed in its legal duty to oversee the intelligence community and the basic operational tasks of the Department of Homeland Security and correct the abusive system of detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere that made our country more vulnerable, not less.

Congress should be helping the president fix those problems, not piling up sound bites for November and trying to bring that shameful detention system home.

Post Reply