Sunday, February 10, 2008

What a Torturous Interview Reveals

It's impossible to block out the nauseating sound of slurping as Chris Wallace, pretend journalist for FOXNews, interviews George W. Bush:

WALLACE: ... Whether it is interrogation of terror prisoners or the intercepting of surveillance among al Qaeda members, are you ever puzzled by all of the concern in this country about protecting of rights of people who want to kill us?

BUSH: That is an interesting way to put it. I wouldn't necessarily define some of the critics of my policy that way. I would say that they want to be very careful that we don't overstep our bounds from protecting the civil liberties of Americans.
It speaks volumes that even Bush himself seems slightly embarrassed by the way Wallace chooses to frame the matter.

The gaping flaw in Wallace's "logic" is that in the absence of due process, we have no way of knowing whether the people being tortured and/or indefinitely detained are, in fact, "terror prisoners" or "al Qaeda members" or "people who want to kill us." What if they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time? What if they have no information of any value? What if they were framed?

Due process exists because the alternative, executive whimsy, is an extremely poor way of getting at the truth, and moreover an invitation to the abuse of power. Due process is a set of fact-finding and truth-protecting mechanisms, and unless and until torture enthusiasts such as Chris Wallace can suggest a better alternative, the genuinely conservative response is to retain what works.

The demand to apply longstanding Constitutional and common law standards to those rounded up in the so-called "war on terror" is a demand to use what works in separating the guilty from the innocent. The increasingly unapologetic and brazen trashing of due process is a cry for authoritarianism.


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