Whenever governments operate in secrecy, they are trying to hide something either from the "enemy" or their own people. In time of war there are always reasons to operate in secrecy. Some would have us believe that the "war" on terrorism justifies the need for continuing secrecy and even the loss of some of our cherished rights of privacy.
Governments are interesting beasts, and I don't use that term lightly. They do develop a life of their own, and often end up justifying almost anything to cling to power or their political lives. They will devour or destroy anything that gets in the way of their power. Often secrecy is one of the key elements that keeps a bad government in power. If you can hide your misdeeds or the secret deals you cut with various special interests, then the people are left in the dark. In theory a strong and vigorous media, the fourth estate helps to protect against that. However when even the media become duped or even worse engage in activities which actually demonstrate their complicity in keeping the public uninformed of the real situation, then we are indeed up a fast moving creek without a paddle.
Governments operating in secrecy need to be closely monitored, and new signs of life among the media are one of the few rays of light that we have. Yet to be effective that monitoring of secrecy requires a vigorous opposition party and as clear a separation between the branches of our government as possible. When the legislative branch becomes the handmaiden of the executive branch, we can expect trouble. We're at that point. I sure this hasn't gone unnoticed by the many people who fervently hope that there might be a way to get good government out of the current Congress. Unfortunately many of those members have become little more than lapdogs for special interests. When they campaign they're able to wake enough people who haven't really been paying attention to get re-elected.
The great paradox of our current situation is that we have elected a group, many of which are very anti-government and suspicious of power until they hold the reins. These same people who are telling us in order to get elected to not trust our government to help with the basic needs of society, once elected are telling us to trust government to do everything right in waging war and holding so-called terrorists without trials. Maybe what they are really telling us is to trust them do everything right for themselves and nothing right for the rest of us.
It is absolutely time to stand up to the ever increasing secrecy of our government. In a free society, the light of open proceedings is the one great protection that we cannot nor should ever even consider giving up. We recently discovered that one of our relatives on my mother's side might have fought in the Revolutionary War. It is a source of great pride to perhaps have been involved in a war that helped shape our country. One of the sparks to that great conflict was the threat of colonists being shipped to England for trial. People were afraid of being excluded from the process of justice. Shipping someone to England meant for all practical purposes a trial which no one in the colonies would know about until it was over for months. A fair and open, expeditious trial should be a fundamental human right. After all isn't even Sadam Hussein getting a trial in the open?
So if the horrors of Sadam can be exposed to the light of day, why is our current government so resistant to providing the prisoners at Guantanamo a fair and open trial? Due to the lack of light on the subject I can only come to one conclusion, our freely elected government is trying to hide its own misdeeds.
It's time we called to account those completely misguided Congressmen who are trying to suspend the right of habeas corpus. If there is one article that is worth taking the time to fill out a free registration to the Washington Post, "Detainees Deserve Court Trials" by P. Sabin Willett is it.
Habeas corpus is older than even our Constitution. It is the right to compel the executive to justify itself when it imprisons people. But the Senate voted to abolish it for Adel, in favor of the same "combatant status review tribunal" that has already exonerated him. That secret tribunal didn't have much impact on his life, but (Senator) Graham says it is good enough.
Adel happens to be the client of P. Sabin Willett. Interestingly even the military agrees that he is innocent, yet he is still imprisoned and will soon have been imprisoned for four years even though the tribunal found him innocent. Handling citizens of other countries in this manner does nothing to enhance the standing of the United States in the world. It may however make it far easier to recruit new terrorists.
Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.
The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.
Willet's article is a very powerful argument against the way our government is being run. We the people ignore stories like Adel's at our own peril. If we don't protest the unfairness of imprisonment without trial, just who will? And if our protests fail because too many are complacent or trust our government to always be right, we are lost and that Revolutionary War might have been fought in vain. If by some chance or quirk of history our government makes a mistake or two which it has never been known to do, and you end up in a secret prison, just how important will habeas corpus be to you then?
There is one last quote from the article that had a great impact on me.
In a wiser past, we tried Nazi war criminals in the sunlight. ...
The world has never doubted the judgment at Nuremberg. But no one will trust the work of these secret tribunals.
Mistakes are made: There will always be Adels. That's where courts come in. They are slow, but they are not beholden to the defense secretary, and in the end they get it right. They know the good guys from the bad guys. Take away the courts and everyone's a bad guy.
Read every word of P. Sabin Willett article, then do as I'm planning on doing, write your Senators and demand that they not suspend habeas corpus.