Protecting the PATRIOTs

John Ashcroft, in a blatant attempt to influence the Supreme Court’s decision in the Padilla case, has released material it claimed at the trial was too ‘secret’ to disclose publicly. Apparently the DoJ’s interior SCOTUS count is telling them the govt’s patently un-Constitutional claim is going down in flames. After first insisting that Padilla was part of a ‘conspiracy to explode a “dirty” radioactive bomb in New York or Washington’, a charge they had to later withdraw because IT WASN’T TRUE, now they’re claiming that Padilla ‘had planned to target apartment buildings and hotels’. Any more truth to that charge? Probably not, why should there be?

But the really interesting pasrt is that the gloves are off. The Bushies aren’t even pretending any more.

When asked about the suspicious timing of the news conference after two years of claiming absolute secrecy, [Deputy Asst Atty Gen James] Comey denied that the Justice Department was trying to influence the Supreme Court, instead saying it was merely trying to influence “the court of public opinion.”In a moment of extraordinary and chilling honesty, Comey explained that Padilla had to be stripped of his civil liberties because, if he used them (including his right to remain silent or his right to a lawyer), he might have been able to win his freedom. Thus, the government had to keep him away from lawyers and judges at all costs. Gone was the pretense of legality or principle. The Justice Department had finally found its natural moral resting point: Civil liberties are tolerated only to the extent that they will not interfere with the government’s actions. Meanwhile, Zacarias Moussaoui, a foreign citizen accused of terrorism, was presumably given his rights in federal court because, given the case against him, the government thought those rights would do him little good.

The administration seems to believe that the public and O’Connor will not worry about others’ rights when they are contemplating their own demise from terrorist attacks. It might be right. When Comey described Padilla in absentia as some terrorist barking out confessions, no one seemed to mind that the Justice Department had turned a U.S. citizen into a presidential plaything to be manipulated for short-term political gain. The message was clear: If we don’t strip some citizens of their rights, your apartment building might collapse.

Uh-huh. Well, that’s a fair trade, right? The Dept of Injustice protects [its] rights. Yours are, uh, not very important.

Is the fact that they’re not even bothering to hide it any more a sign that they’re certain no one will notice? Or that they’ve grown so powerful they don’t care any more whether we notice or not because there’s nothing we can do about it? Or so desperate to get this decision that they have to come out out in the open?

Maybe the last. If they lose Padilla, the rest of the PATRIOT Act is in real legal trouble.

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