09 November 2005

I'm a little late getting on the bandwagon here...

...but let's talk about torture and secret prisons.

It would appear that The Republican leadership is up in arms over the leaking of classified information to the Washington Post, which resulted in a page-one article about secret prisons that the CIA has apparently been running overseas since 9/11. Their demands for an investigation into this particular leak, at this particular time, strike me as being mostly in the interests of politics, following the indictment of Libby for lying to FBI agents and a grand jury during an earlier leak investigation, but that's beside the point.

Also beside the point, at least at the moment, is how this particular leak illustrates the need for a shield law that would allow reporters to keep their sources secret. Some things need to be made public, particularly when the government wants to hide them. Yes, such a law would almost certainly have prevented the special prosecutor from finding the evidence necessary to indict Libby, and it will make it harder for police and prosecutors to investigate crimes. That's a price I'm willing to pay to know that there is something out there that is independent of the government, but can still keep a close eye on the actions that the government takes, and report on misdeeds at high levels within our country's leadership. In the finest American traditions, I don't trust the government, and I like the idea that someone is watching it. But as I said, that is beside the point right now.

This issue marks the first time I have been entirely in agreement with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: "Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. The real story is those jails."

That's for damn sure.

It boggles the mind. Our government has joined a long and upstanding tradition of fascists, communists, and miscellaneous tinpot dictators in creating a system of jails that operates under so much secrecy that almost nobody knows who is incarcerated in them. The prisoners in those jails have absolutely no rights, and the CIA can do unto them whatever they want. The vice-president is lobbying Congress to preserve the right for the CIA to torture prisoners. He says that removing that right would restrict the president's flexibility in conducting the "War on Terror". It would remove one of the tools that can help us fight the terrorists.

Personally, I don't think thumbscrews should be in our toolbox.

Never before in my life have I been ashamed to be an American. I have disagreed with policies of our government, to be sure. There have been individual acts of our government that have outright disgusted me, both at home and abroad. Never before, however, has our government done something that has made me feel this unclean. Secret prisons and unpersons are supposed to be the things that we fight against. They used to be the things that we fight against. Friday, we stop to honor our veterans, many of whom fought against regimes that did things like that. Today, we don't fight against it - we've become it, instead.

Secret prisons and unpersons. The very thought, the very concept is UnAmerican. It runs counter to everything that we have ever stood for. But it is being done, and it is being done in the name of protecting American citizens from terrorists. Personally, I would rather die an American than live in a nation that holds even its deadliest enemies as secret prisoners, devoid of all rights. That is not the nation that our founders pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to establish.
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