A Dark Day in America

By Phil Plait | September 28, 2006 10:33 pm

In memoriam.

For habeas corpus. And for the moral high ground.

… initially, that was all I was going to write, but I can’t let it stand there.

In a circumstance so ironic I can hardly stand it, I went to United States Senate home page to look into the passing of this bill which, in my opinion, will do more damage in the long run to the United States than almost anything this government has done. This is what I was greeted with on the Senate page:

“We the People”
Celebrating the Constitution

Written in 1787, ratified in 1788, and in operation since 1789, the United States Constitution remains a vital and living document. Having been strengthened by amendments, the Constitution serves as both guide and protector of U.S. citizens and their elected officials.

A dark day indeed.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Rant

Comments (164)

  1. The terrorists hate our freedom. So if we get rid of it, they’ll leave us alone.

  2. GAZZA

    Speaking as a poor Aussie, is there any possibility of elaboration here? I followed the link Phil supplied above, and I get the impression that there was some sort of bill regarding how suspected terrorists are or are not to be brought to trial, and that this bill is probably unconstitutional, but there are no details on exactly why this is the case?

    Has it authorised torture? Has it authorised a “police state”? Or is it that it leaves open the possibility of doing something like this later that is the concern?

  3. diederick

    How big are chances that Americans are taking to the streets by the thousands to protest?

  4. PS> hey kids! If ya read this message your mother is alive and well, I pray your the same. Let me know what your opinion is! Love………………………__________________

  5. Phil Brady

    Since the BA hasn’t provided any useful links for what his rant is about, here’s one to an AP report about the passage of the bill he’s (probably) talking about.

    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/C/CONGRESS_TERRORISM?SITE=7219&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2006-09-28-19-09-50

    And here’s a link to the Senate version of the bill.

    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:SN03930:

    Since, according to the article, the House will be voting on the Senate version of the bill Friday (29Sep06), the version I’ve linked to is what will become law once the President signs it.

    Finally, a definition of habeus corpus, for those who may not know it.

    http://www.lectlaw.com/def/h001.htm

  6. Kullat Nunu

    This is just plain sick.

    Imagine that you are a completely innocent person, detained by US forces because someone “reported” you in order to get a reward. This is not an imaginary situation, many detainees considered not quilty and subsequently released from Guantánamo tell such stories (if they really were terrorists, they certainly wouldn’t have been released).

    Then you are tortured until you confess. Under pain and fear of death, you WILL tell ANYTHING you think they might want to hear, no matter how innocent you might be. Similarly, someone else tortured may tell that YOU are a terrorist. According to the new law, that can be used as an evidence against you. Do you think that is fair?

    In addition, the original version of the law could have allowed court not to tell the charges, nor what evidence they have against you. Not even to your lawyer. What chance you think you would have to prove you innocence?

    Who will ultimately benefit from this? Answer: The terrorists! Some terrorists [i]might[/i] get caught, but the intelligence gathered using torturing is just not reliable: The real terrorists may give imaginary names, or names of people already dead. And only a retarded terrorist leader don’t change his plans when he notices that one of his men has been caught. On the other hand, when people hear how the detainees have been handled (remember Abu Ghraib) the number of potential terrorists skyrockets.

    Finally, by adopting this law, the United States loses any remaining moral righteousness it might have had. This new law allows the United States act like a appalling third world banana state. What’s the point getting rid of dictators if you can’t do any better?

    If the powers that be can remove some of your basic human rights, are you really so naïve that you think it stops here?

  7. Chip

    The bill actually discards the checks and balances put forth by the Framers of the U.S. Constitution. It reveals to the world a weakening of the moral basis of the fight against terrorism and places our citizens and soldiers at greater risk; either overseas by foreign forces or domestically by law enforcement of our own government. It moves us closer to fascism.

  8. Laguna2

    This bill is the final step to turn the World Police into the schoolyard bully.

  9. you’re an idiot

    love always, belva

  10. L Ron Hubbub

    Hey Julie Nolting…off your meds?

  11. Mark Martin

    I’m quite sure that what the BA is referring to is the description of the Constitution as protecting both the citizens *and* elected officials. Although such officials, as citizens themselves, are protected, it would be rather redundant to need to point this out. Thus, the suggestion in the Senate website’s description is that elected officials are granted *special* protections from their own constituents. Nothing could be further from the spirit of the Law as conceived by the U.S. founders. The Constitution is for making the government an instrument in service to the general citizenry.

  12. Chris

    Yet another shining example of how the idiots in Congress pay no attention to anyone other than themselves.

    Of course, with the apathy of the general public, they’ll get away with pretty much anything and everything.

  13. diederick

    I just read that the US has suspended funding to Thailand because of the coup there. It will be resumed, according to Sean McCormack it will be resumed after democracy has been restored. I wonder if he meant the Thai or the US democracy…

  14. Shawn S.

    Why is it that people seem to forget that the greatest threat to our liberty is NOT from an outside force, but from within?

    Terrorists can bomb us all they want and that will NOT change anything other than our population (and really piss us off) unless we change the system ourselves. We are doing this and the terrorists are winning the real battle. The real battle is not in how many US Americans are dead, but in how many are left with the rights guaranteed to us by our Constitution. How much of the orginal vision of the Founding Fathers is left?

    The dangers to our liberty are legion. They are always in people who believe the individual isn’t as important as the whole group. They are in the people who think they know better than everyone else how people should live their lives. They are in people to whom “Live Free or Die” is just a catchy sloagan.

    Maybe it will really take the US becoming a totalitarian theocracy and an ensuing bloody revolution to make people value freedom again. I hope it doesn’t happen that way, but as long as we are willing to trade safety for liberty then it’ll happen.

    I’d rather die than live under a totalitarian system. I mean this with all my being.

    I hope the Courts strike this down.

    And in a nice turn of phrase to Julie, “If you wanna live in a theocratic country that bad, go move to one!” I’m sure Iran will welcome you if you just convert to the One True God’s religion.

    LIVE FREE OR DIE! …and mean the ‘die’ part or it’s all for nothing.

  15. Joshua

    RIP Freedom
    1776 – 2006
    It was nice while it lasted.

  16. Daffy

    And the 30 percent fanatical, unthinking Bush loyalists will support this, too. Party is all that matters to these people; country is nothing.

  17. Grayson

    Let us not forget that habeas corpus was suspended during the Civil War by President Lincoln and during Reconstruction by President Grant.

  18. DennyMo

    Grayson makes a good point, there is a historical precedent for such an action. I believe those actions had a finite period on them, I haven’t checked this latest bill to see if it has “sunset clauses” or similar. If not, that is most troubling…

  19. John

    Oh lordy, the sky is falling! Dark night!

    There is nothing totalitarian about this bill, soon hopefully to become law. Habeas corpus can be suspended. It’s in the Constitution. And it’s only suspended for non-citizen enemy combatants under this bill.

    The bill also clarifies what can and cannot be done to enemy combatants. I don’t think discomfort measures qualify as torture, I don’t even think waterboarding qualifies as torture, but of course reasonable people can disagree on that. It has to be set down in law, though. Otherwise no one will get any intelligence from captured terrorists.

    It’s not that the general public is apathetic. Most just don’t agree with you on this issue.

  20. Joshua

    Yes, Grayson, and it was wrong then, as well. Lincoln was not a saint.

  21. philw

    I think it quite appropriate that BA Blog has morphed into a complete barking Moonbat political forum. Further illustration that expertise in one arena certainly does not translate into another.

  22. Peptron

    I really hate the way they are trying to legalise torture. This is so ineffective. Under torture, the person will say what the torturer wants to hear, NOT the truth.

    You probably heard about the Maher Arar case:
    http://www.maherarar.ca

    Basically he was sent to the US, and for some reasons the US thought he was part of Al Quaida, so they questionned him about it. They had no evidence whatsoever, but they had to procecute terrorists, be they real or imaginated. After 12 days of him saying he had nothing to do with it, they decided to chain him and send him in Syria to be questionned under torture. He was tortured in 18 hours sessions a day for a year, and of course since they wanted him to say he had relations with Al Quaeda, he eventually broke down and said he had. After a year it became evident he had nothing to do with it and just released him. But COME ON! 18 hours/day of torture for a year, all that asked by and under the supervision of the United States? Of course the Geneva Convension didn’t apply since Bush didn’t want it to apply.

    Another story was one about a taxi driver sent in Guantanamo for a year. This case is as frightening, and shows that ANYONE can be sent there. Of course the treatment in Guantanamo wasn’t as bad as in Syrian torture chambers, but still.
    Basically, the taxi driver owned a very prosperous compagny in Afganistan, and one of his competitor was jealous. So that competitor went to a US soldier telling that the taxi driver was a member of Al Quaida. Yeah, that much evidence…
    The driver defended himself by saying he had American music CDs and poster of American girls in swimsuits in his bedroom (things an Al Quaida member certainly WON’T have). But of course that didn’t help, so he ended up tortured for a year (to a lesser extend than Maher Arar, but still, it is US torture…).

    I mean come on, take ANYBODY and torture him 18/hours a day yelling at him to say he is an Al Quaida terrorist, ANYBODY will eventually say they are. And during that time, the real terrorists are free and continue their reform of the US.

  23. Peptron

    John, what you don’t seem to see is that they don’t use actual evidence to choose who is an enemy combatant. Like the Maher Arar case and that taxi driver. Pointing a finger at somebody and saying “He is a terrorist” should not be considered evidence. And also they only list a few torture method, but in fact they real tactic is to send people in countries where torture is legal, instead of doing it in the US, so it’s pretty much any torture under the sun. In the case of Maher Arar, he was most often than not tortured with electric shocks, since it causes internal burns that are hard to see from the outside. Don’t forget that “officially”, he wasn’t supposed to be tortured, so you choose torture methods that don’t cause external wounds. Internal is OK, since the torture is long done when you can check for those.

    I really am against torture, but also remember that they made sure that they don’t need any evidence to torture people, which maximises the amount of people that had nothing to do with terrorism.
    Don’t forget that under that law, being a friend of a terrorist makes you a terrorist too, even if there is no evidence against the 1st terrorist. So if you happened to know Maher, you too could have ended up tortured even though you didn’t know he was an imagined terrorist in the US.

    The most frigtening parts are those that say you can’t have legal help, and also that you don’t need to commit a crime to be tortured. THAT is ugly in my opinion. Why would you want a rule to allow you to torture people you don’t have any case against?

  24. John

    Arar was not renditioned to Syria, he was deported, as in immigration enforcement. Probably not the right thing to do given Syria is, well, Syria. Do you really think we would rely on them to interrogate suspected Al Queda guys for us? Syria did what they do best, torture the heck out of an innocent person.

    Too bad for the taxi driver. Better safe than sorry. No one is tortured at Guantanamo (depending, I guess, on what you consider torture), and to say “it isn’t as bad as Syria” is silly. There’s no comparison.

    What about the inconvenient fact that they’ve gotten lots of good intel from “torturing” terrorists, and even allegedly broken up several plots that were in the works?

  25. Alan B.

    Article I, section 9 of the Constitution: “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” The Civil War was a case of rebellion and thus Lincoln’s suspension was not unconstitutional. It is very hard to fit current circumstances into this discription, however.

  26. Alan B.

    John,

    The constitution says nothing about habeas corpus being only for citizens.

  27. It is a very sad day, indeed..
    This legislation just ripped out a huge chunk of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It suspends Habeas Corpus which introduced in the Magna Carta and so vital to justice and freedom that it was specifically included in the Constitution. It also completely nullifies the Amendment VI which is the basis for our system of justice..

    If this legislation is not turned over by the Supreme Court, then the United States of America has ceased to exist.. Like Rome before us, the Republic will have fallen beneath a government of tyranny..

    :-(

    Bill M.

  28. Peptron

    To Jhon:

    What about the inconvenient fact that they’ve gotten lots of good intel from “torturing” terrorists, and even allegedly broken up several plots that were in the works?

    Personally, I just cannot get myself to think of torture as something positive, especially when this is coming from the US. Though the most frightening parts are those that make it unnecessary to have any evidence against the person and that this person doesn’t have a right of defense.
    Also, I really think that torture is immensely counter-productive. It “might” be useful when you can tell what the person says is true or not, but in most cases they’ll just say what the person wants to hear. I’m pretty certain that they try to find parts of information that they don’t already know… though “torture” might be more effective if you are trying to get information that you already have, to make sure it comes from many different people.

    Also about the taxi driver… I cannot remember his name, but they made a short documentary about him. What they mentionned is that the worst part wasn’t his detention methods, but that they absolutely refused to tell him why he was in Guantanamo at all. He was released after one year of behing there, and he learned why he was sent there because of his subsequent research. The documentary focused not on the detention methods, but the methods of chosing who does and who doesn’t, and noticed that just about anybody, including you and me, could be sent there without any shred of a case against them. I mean, when you put somebody in prison, especially that kind, at least tell him why he is there…

  29. And the 30 percent fanatical, unthinking Bush loyalists will support this, too. Party is all that matters to these people; country is nothing.

    Those 30 percent aren’t the scariest. What is scariest is the other Republicans who close ranks behind their incompetent leader and who toe the party line in spint of the fact that Bush’s incompetence is manifest (the Iraq war has been a disaster on all fronts, and only Tony Snow seems to provide soundbytes that would make you think otherwise), and in spite of the fact that this step-by-step dismantling of the principles this country was founded on is something that Republicans should be just as scared of as Democrats. There are people like commenter John above who seem to believe that it’s all OK; I can’t tell if he’s really part of the lunatic fringe, or if he’s rationalized it all away, but it’s part of what I find scary.

    When rationality is sacrificed in the name of party loyalty, yeah, we’re all kinda hosed.

  30. Shawn S.

    John, expertise in politics doesn’t mean ‘agreement with John’. Are you saying that only politicians can have political opinions? The question is how much freedom do we want?

    The argument is whether or not this is constitutional. As Alan B. pointed out, this doesn’t seem to be a good reason for suspending the writ of habeas corpus.

    Right or left, we should all be in favor of liberty. This is a strike against our liberty.

    Cowards are in favor of this.

  31. John

    Shawn S. – I think you mean philw.

  32. Shawn S.

    Bah, sorry about that, John.

    Here’s a link to the section regarding Habeus Corpus: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c109:1:./temp/~c1099Xhlak:e104603

    It does apply only to non-citizens, or those determined to be enemy combatants. It also prohibits torture and defines those. I didn’t see any place where it says the President can determine what is and isn’t prohibited treatment. I do see how it can make it easy to arrest dissidents and hold them without charge.

    Unless I’m reading the bill wrong.

    I encourage everyone to read the bill (you may need coffee).

    Still, I see serious witch-hunt potential in this.

  33. John

    Alan B. – “It is very hard to fit current circumstances into this discription, however.”

    Very true. Do terrorists sneaking into our country to commit acts of war qualify as an invasion? Do sleeper cells? It’s not a traditional method of waging war (traditionally, they’d just be executed, as were German agents landed on our shores in WW2). That’s why it’s important for Congress to pass clarifying legislation. And the Constitution does say that habeas can be suspended, so I don’t think your citizenship point is relevant.

    Rob Knopp – Pretty much the lunatic fringe.

  34. Paul

    Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus was found unconstitutional bySCOTUS in Ex parte: Milligan.

    Also specualtion is that it will grant powers to the President to delcare a US citizen an enemy combatant. Which in turn would put that citizen under these military tribunals rather than under normal courts. Which is a flagrant violation of the seperation of powers, the 5th and 4th amendment. Not to mention due process. Hell the 5th amendment and due process was built into the Constitution because of Admiralty courts set up by the English. They were very similar to what these military tribunals are going to be.

  35. Pablo

    This is scary and it’s wrong. I’m a foreigner engineer, married to an american woman and hence a legal immigrant, but not yet a citizen, so then I guess anybody that doesn’t like the way I look can say I’m something I’m not and then I’m done, tortured, deported, you name it!!! I come from a third world country that had a military dictatorship for 17 years and this is starting to feel just like that one.
    I think my children, when they born, won’t live here after all…

  36. Dunc

    If your position on habeas corpus is totally dependant on your reading of the US constitution, then you are an ass. It’s the foundation of common law and has been for over 800 years. It is the root of freedom. Without it, no other legal or constitutional guarantee is worth the paper it’s written on. It is the sole basis of a free society.

    Arar was not renditioned to Syria, he was deported, as in immigration enforcement.

    BZZZT! FALSE!

    Arar is a Canandian citizen. He was in transit in the US on his way to Canada when he was detained by US authorities. US authorities do not enforce Canada’s immigration policies.

    What about the inconvenient fact that they’ve gotten lots of good intel from “torturing” terrorists, and even allegedly broken up several plots that were in the works?

    The key word there is “allegedly”. The Soviets “allegedly” got free and full confessions from all those dissidents they tortured, using techniques indistinguishable from what US officials have openly stated that they use.

  37. Ick of the East

    For every extraordinary power to detain, torture, and prosecute that Bush’s supporters are willing to grant him, they must ask themselves; will I be willing to grant these same powers to President Sharpton?

    If not, why should we listen to anything you say?
    .

  38. A T-shirt I saw at Worldcon said it all:

    America: Designed by geniuses
    Run by idiots

    If Thomas Jefferson or James Madison COULD roll over in their graves, they would now!

    I don’t think this marks the death of the Constitution, as much as a major amputaion. Like a leg or an arm.

    OK, so this isn’t directly related to astronomy, but I still applaud Phil for writing about it. I don’t like blogs/LJs that are oh so focused that you forget an actual human being is writing it.

  39. DrFlimmer

    I´m not an american and i´m not living in the US. So I can say how this bill will be seen in some parts of the other world.
    This bill seems to be exactly that what GW Bush wants to fight against: Terrorism! You can´t defeat terrorism by making it!
    This bill shall only exist giving the CIA the “right” to kidnap people and to inprison them in “secret prisons” somewhere in europe!
    Please, tell your president that he is not going to make new friends…. it´s exactly the other way round: he is gulity if the terroristic attack take place in America!

  40. John

    So, Dunc, you think Arar was sent to Syria so that they could torture him and give us the intel.

    Syria.

    I’m not saying it was right to deport the guy, but he wasn’t sent there because we thought Baby Assad would help us out.

    And of course I say “allegedly.” I don’t have a top secret clearance, so I only know what the gov’t has released. Brian Ross of ABC News seems pretty convinced we got actionable intel from waterboarding KSM, and foiled a major plot. And until we starve and work to death a few tens of millions of our own people, I don’t think you should be comparing anything we do to the Soviets.

    Ick – Holding my nose, yes, I would support a Pres Sharpton (shudder) having those powers. Should you now listen to everything I have to say?

  41. PaleoProf

    Iceland.. I’m thinking Iceland, they turn the lights off to look at the stars and apparently have real grownups in charge. That sounds like a nice place to live. No fossils but I’ll bring my own.
    *Sigh* not really but a boy can dream
    I loved my country enough to serve in the Marines.
    I love it too much to let these chicken-hawks run it into the ground.

  42. skeptigirl

    John Says:
    Arar was not renditioned to Syria, he was deported, as in immigration enforcement.

    Right, that’s where we send all Canadian Citizens we deport. And, I wasn’t aware it was an immigration violation to change planes in the US in transit from one country to another. He was picked up changing planes in the US on his way home to Canada.

  43. skeptigirl

    Grayson Says:
    Let us not forget that habeas corpus was suspended during the Civil War by President Lincoln and during Reconstruction by President Grant.

    And your point is? We also interred Japanese citizens in WWII, had legalized slavery, denied women the vote and property rights, had a period of mass hysteria during the McCarthy era, and went to war in Vietnam and Iraq under false pretenses.

    Whoopie, it’s OK. It isn’t the first time.

    We have officially arrived in the country our parents warned us about. Remember those horrible commies that didn’t have any human rights in their awful godless countries? Oh, but this bill only applies to the other guys, those legal residents who aren’t real citizens. So it’s different.

    I can only hope this is short lived and doesn’t deteriorate any further. November will be one of the most important elections ever for people to speak out and say whether or not they support this government.

  44. Confuddled

    BA I’m really sad, this website has now gone from science to politics. This is SO not my favorite site anymore!

    I’m really confused about politics, but I know that if I had neibor that I didn’t like I would either talk to them or move. So why don’t y’all move to Australia there? I hear the reef is pretty neat!

  45. PK

    Some commenters give the impression that this law is OK because it applies only to non-citizens. But how is that different from distinguishing jews from “real Germans”? There are plenty non-citizens in your country that make vital contriutions to US society. In fact, your universities rely on them (another parallel with 70 years ago).

  46. skeptigirl

    John Says:
    Oh lordy, the sky is falling! Dark night!

    There is nothing totalitarian about this bill, soon hopefully to become law. Habeas corpus can be suspended. It’s in the Constitution. And it’s only suspended for non-citizen enemy combatants under this bill.

    Correction John. It’s only suspended for non-citizens. Since anyone can be called an enemy combatant without evidence, without trial, without anything but the governments say so, one need not be an enemy combatant no matter how it is defined. That’s the whole point of the bill. D’oh.

  47. “Please, tell your president that he is not going to make new friends…. it´s exactly the other way round: he is gulity if the terroristic attack take place in America! ”
    ————————————-

    George W. Bush does NOT care what others think of his plans. He’s a firm believe in “stay the course” regardless of where it leads.. He views admissions of fault or mistakes weakness and will not, therefore, back down from a course of action that is already set into motion. He is a most dangerous man.

  48. skeptigirl

    Here is another example of the power of words. If we say “we can torture the enemy who has information we need to stop terrorists’ plots”, and we say we arrest and detain “enemy combatants” then the listener/reader is distracted from what isn’t said. Those examples are not the same examples this bill really will be used for.

    What isn’t said is torture doesn’t yield enough information to be worth the extremely negative impact it has for this country. Terrorist recruitment was an issue just revealed in the Intelligence Assessment we had to learn about through a leak because it was being hidden from those who don’t want their policies to look bad. The terrorist recruitment potential of legalizing torture must be immense.

    And some of the information obtained from torture is not just useless, it leads to actions that waste time and resources as well as to actions against innocent persons.

    What isn’t said is enemy combatants have quite often been innocent. Why do you need to suspend habeas corpus? Because you don’t have legitimate evidence, of course. Don’t you think capturing a combatant in the act of participating in a battle against you would be sufficient evidence? Of course it would be. Had that been where these people were being picked up, then this bill would not be needed.

  49. Jason B

    Oh so very dark..

    Dear BadA and the rest of you proclaiming the death of freedom. How would YOU propose we fight this non uniformed, unconventional enemy? Come on now I’m sure with all of the brain power on this web site you would all be able to come up with a plan to defeat/difuse an enemy that has vowed to kill you. And yes this includes all of you posting on this web site.

    You don’t have to believe George Bush on this. They post videos proudly proclaiming it. They do it the name of their (gasp) God. I know how this web site kind of frowns on that whole god thing BUT, here’s a group of people willing (commanded by their religion more accuratley) to kill you if you don’t believe as they do.

    I would think that for a group of people so devoted to observable facts that you could figure out who would be the first on the religion of peace’s “hit” list. Yet, time and again all I here from liberals is that Bush is worse than Hitler. C’mon guys, remember to use facts.

    How many women can now attend schools that just three years ago couldn’t?
    How many people can vote thanks to this country?

    Back to the main point though. Does it occur to any of you to ever believe the United States version of a story? Could it be possible that some of these fine jihadists just might lie? Maybe they have a motive to?

    Stop, before you even reply that I just blindly follow the party line. I think all government should be watched with a very wary eye. But again when an enemy proclaims it will kill you, and demenstates that by beheadings, bus bombings, shootings oh and driving airplanes into buildings, perhaps we should give just a bit of the benifit of a doubt to our country. But, I guess we wouldn’t want to make any of these fine upstanding folks uncomfortable before they do any of this stuff?

    This was from a conservative who tends to vote Republican who comes to this site to get scientific info. Sorry to blow away a stereotype that I see more and more of on this site.

  50. Jason B,

    We didn’t have to trammel the Constitution during WWII or WWI or even Viet Nam.

    I don’t have a problem with capturing and interrogating possible enemy combatants. But you can still maintain Constitutional guarantees AND the Geneva Convengtion and hold possible terrorists.

    The problem is that some of these guys were just in the wrong time at the wrong place. Some of them have done nothing wrong and have been detained for almost five years. Heresay evidence and evidence gotten from torture is generally bogus.

    Hell, we even had at least one person in American custody BEFORE 9/11 who knew about 9/11 and his captors failed to get any useful information from him. If we had people in the FBI in those days who paid attention and saw the bigger picture (a man who wanted to learn how to fly a plane but not how to land it…), things might have been different.

  51. Kebsis

    How come I’m just seeing a big blac box instead of the blog entry?

  52. [quote]How would YOU propose we fight this non uniformed, unconventional enemy? Come on now I’m sure with all of the brain power on this web site you would all be able to come up with a plan to defeat/difuse an enemy that has vowed to kill you. And yes this includes all of you posting on this web site.[/quote]

    Well, firstly, they don’t have the power to kill everyone they don’t like. World is too big, and they are too little.

    Second, frankly, you fight this non uniformed, unconventional enemy where they are weakest. Economically. It isn’t sexy, but it has teeth.

    Say, as an example, we were able to import oil from somewhere else; say Russia. Say we increased our importing of oil from there by fifty percent, and using some conservation methods, were able to tell countires we suspected of harboring terrorists that we weren’t going to buy there aymore, until they, themselves, took care of whatever group we didn’t like within their borders.

    With the sudden disapperence of BILLIONS MONTHLY, now flowing into coffers not their own, do you really think the governments of several Middle Eastern countries would’t fall all over themselves trying toget rid of the elements that caused this horrid calamity: that the U.S. isn’t buying anymore?

    The U.S. is the world’s biggest consumer. We’re the customer. In that lies both our weakness and our strength.

  53. jrkeller

    Laurie Mann

    Are serious you?

    FDR – Japanese Internments – Exective Order – 9066
    FDR – German spies executions

    JFK/LBJ – Vietman the undeclared war
    JFK/LBJ – Martin Luther King Jr. Illegal Wiretapping
    LBJ – Wiretapping of Goldwater

  54. Peptron

    Another thing many forget is how your laws can be used by others when you are in trouble.

    Let’s suppose a person from Finland has trouble aboard, it is very easy for Finland to ask for the protection of that person, since Finland and other north Europe countries don’t have much problems with human rights. So they are in a situation of authority.

    Now, let’s suppose an American who is taking a plane to the UK and transits by France for economical reasons, and that during that transit gets randomly arrested by French Police since his face was different from the average and then gets deported to Iran where they torture him for a year. What could the United States do? Ask for the protection of his human right since he is innocent? All Iran will do is laugh at the US and say “but you do it you too, so who are you to ask us to behave?”.

  55. Dan Gerhards

    This has happened before. The only difference is the word used: “comunist” instead of “terrorist”. Are those of you calling the BA a moonbat really longing for the good old days of McCarthyism?

  56. John

    Skeptigirl:
    -No, we don’t send all deported Canadian citizens to Syria. We send people who are suspected of being terrorists, WHO HOLD DUAL CANADIAN-SYRIAN CITIZENSHIP, back to Syria. In Arar’s case, mistakenly.
    Do you believe we would send someone to our bosom buddies in Syria for intel?

    -“November will be one of the most important elections ever for people to speak out and say whether or not they support this government.”
    So, if the Republicans win the election, again, making them 4-0 over the last 6 years, what will you say?

    -“Correction John. It’s only suspended for non-citizens. Since anyone can be called an enemy combatant without evidence, without trial, without anything but the governments say so, one need not be an enemy combatant no matter how it is defined. That’s the whole point of the bill. D’oh.”
    The bill has specific language on who is to be considered an enemy combatant and not. What more do you want? A trial for every guy we pick up on the battlefield? Your want to give unlawful combatants, who violate the Geneva Convention and do not fall under its protections, more rights than lawful combatants? I’m sure plenty of innocent French farmers were captured in WW2, but they got held. It’s a shame, but the alternative? Let them all go to attack us again? They go before a review board to determine if they’re being held properly or not, as per the Geneva Conventions. We’ve let plenty go who have been found innocent. The rest are “rotting” in Guantanamo.

    -Re: Torture – Every method of gathering intel brings in alot of junk. You have to separate the wheat from the chaff, basic intel work, which of course wastes alot of time. Your argument in this regard isn’t against torture, it’s against all intel gathering!
    Go watch ABC’s Brian Ross at this site:
    http://hotair.com/archives/2006/09/20/bombshell-abc-independently-confirms-success-of-cia-torture-tactics/
    [CONTENT WARNING: IT’S A MICHELLE MALKIN WEBSITE WITH A CLIP OF ROSS ON O’REILLY! BE SURE TO SHOWER THOROUGHLY AFTER WATCHING!]
    He says we stopped a dozen terror plots because we waterboarded KSM, Ramsi Bin-Alshib, Zubaydah, etc. Worth every penny, if you ask me.

  57. Joshua

    Dan: I fear the answer might actually be yes.

  58. Confuddled

    No one cares exept you BA nerds

  59. Jason B

    Jonathan,

    Bingo. You got it! Now which party fights tooth and nail to avoid becoming energy independent. Alaska. Might spoil the view for some carribou. Gulf of Mexico. Might despoil the water. Wind power. Spoils the Kennedy’s view. Nuclear. Let the screaming begin.

    So were stuck buying from the very people who really don’t like us. Now here’s the tough question. Who out there has REALLY changed their lifestyle to use less energy? Sitting there, with the light on and reading this uses power. Going to dinner, the beach, that concert you just have to see; hey it’s to fight global warming. How about flying to sci-fi conventions?

    Don’t get me wrong. These are all what we individually find important. I wouldn’t presume to make that decision for somebody else. That’s Freedom. The Taliban was not a fan of freedom. Nor was the Soviet Union.

    To those of you who claim communists were just a buggaboo to scare people with could you please tell me to the nearest ten million how many people were killed under Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot? Makes Hitler look like a rank amature.

    Cafeenman, you go with the tried and true, “the Christans did it too”. If the Cardinal of New York were currently issuing statements calling for the deaths of non believers I’d have a real big problem with him too. But, were talking about the present. I don’t believe it’s common practice for the Sunday bible class to chant Onward Christan Soldiers and saw the head off of a bound captive.

    Please take a look at this link, and I do sincerly mean please.

    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com

    Also into this argument on “torture” I constantly hear that torture doesn’t work. Many experts that I’ve heard and read say there are better ways to get good and reliable info. ie, sleep depravation, loud noise, cramped conditions etc. (this is eerily like the Eric Clapton show I went to last night) meant to keep a person out of sorts works better. Now are many of you so jaded that you think the military would use other methods just to get their kicks. If what I described above is torture to you then you should just go cut up the bed sheets for surrender flags. Tie dye some black for those stylish burkhas coming out for the Spring.

  60. Kullat Nunu

    Did you know that waterboarding was one of the primary torture methods of the Khmer Rouge. Remember them? They killed a few million people in Cambodia during their insane reign in the 1970s.

    This is what waterboarding looks like:

    http://www.davidcorn.com/archives/2006/09/this_is_what_wa.php

    Bottom line: Not only do waterboarding and the other types of torture currently being debated put us in company with the most vile regimes of the past half-century; they’re also designed specifically to generate a (usually false) confession, not to obtain genuinely actionable intel. This isn’t a matter of sacrificing moral values to keep us safe; it’s sacrificing moral values for no purpose whatsoever.

  61. Donnie B.

    While I despise this bill, we should keep a little perspective here. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Folks, this is politics, not serious lawmaking.

    Congress knows perfectly well this bill will not pass Constitutional muster. The Supreme Court has already ruled on these practices, including some of the very things this bill “allows”. Several prominent Republican senators made this point during debate. Nobody expects this legislation to withstand a court challenge.

    So why even pass it? Very simple. This is an election year, and the Republicans are in deep trouble. There’s a very good chance they’ll lose control of the House, and a smaller chance they could lose both houses of Congress. This bill gives them a weapon to use against their Democratic challengers. “You didn’t support this bill? Oh, so you want to coddle terrorists!”

    So don’t let’s panic about this. Even the current SCOTUS can be trusted to overturn legislation that tramples on habeas corpus. The only real concern is whether the tactic might work to swing some close congressional races; let’s hope that the electorate is sharp enough to see through the ploy.

  62. John

    Kallat – the only difference being, I imagine, that the US didn’t shoot the waterboardees in the head and make nice pyramids out of their skulls afterwards. But why quibble over details! Hey, the Khmer Rouge used guns, too! And they wore sandals! By using guns and wearing sandals, we are no better!

    Donnie – IIRC the SCOTUS overruled Bush because he didn’t have specific Congressional authorization for military tribunals. Which this legislation authorizes. SCOTUS might have additional objections up its sleeve, of course.

  63. Calli Arcale

    The sad thing is that many people will judge this on partisan grounds. Which, of course, is why an abomination like this was allowed to pass. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” But ya know, this is not about evil Republicans or evil conservatives. Real conservatives would be appalled. And Republicans? The very concept of a republic relies on certain freedoms. If these guarantees can so easily be stripped from non-citizens currently in US jurisdiction (US laws definitely apply to non-citizens while they are under US jurisdiction; I really don’t understand why the US constitution shouldn’t), how much longer before these guarantees can be stripped from citizens?

    More to the point, how do we know that they haven’t been already? Bush has admitted to secret prisons. We cannot know that none of them have US citizens incarcerated in them. Plus, we know that the alleged terrorists recently captured in Britain were British citizens; why not Al Quaeda members with US citizenship? That will be the next step, I predict. To strip citizenship from people so that they can be legally tortured. (Legally tortured. I cannot believe I said that. But once this bill becomes law, it will be legal to torture captives.)

    And if a detainee is a citizen, how are they to obtain their guaranteed rights and liberties? Such as habeas corpus? This would reinstate the military tribunals, which for obvious reasons don’t let you appeal your case to the Supreme Court. They can’t. It’s a completely separate chain. If you are a US citizen and end up in one of these prisons, you won’t have the chance to prove you are a US citizen unless they are conscientious enough to check on your status and generous enough to acknowledge that it means something.

    This isn’t equivalent to dictatorships such as existed so recently in Romania. Those situations are far worse. But they all started small.

    I won’t get seriously worried about a dictatorship until Bush tries to get Presidential term limits revoked. That’s our protection from dictatorship. And I’m sure as hell going to exercise my right to vote this November, and in all subsequent elections. I don’t know who the Republicans are going to endorse in 2008, but you can bet I’m going to vote in the primaries. It had better not be someone only interested in continuing Bush’s legacy.

    Note: I am not a left-winger. Nor am I a right-winger. I’m a moderate. I voted for Bush in 2000. I voted for Kerry in 2004, but not because I liked Kerry; I voted for him because I thought he had the best shot of defeating Bush. I am not a Bush-basher; I don’t like to bash by nature. There’s always another side to the story. But the more I hear from the White House, the more disturbed I become about Bush.

  64. Jason B

    Once again equating the most free and open country with the worst of the world.

    Evidence for my claim. Look at all the divergent opinions on this. Look at what we can call the president without fear of late night visits from the authorities. If you threaten him what do expect? Try that with the Khmer Rouge. Slightly different outcome.

    You make the comparison of the US military attempting to wring information out of what are many times hardened criminals that is for the benifit of protecting you and your family and the sensless torture of common peasants for not thinking the right way. I still give the benifit of the doubt to our guys. And if one of our guys are found to be acting criminally we have remedies. What was in place in Cambodia for agrieved persons to take thier complaints to?

    All countries are not created equal.

  65. Bryan D.

    *waits patently for January 2008 when GWB is replaced and the internet stops exploding with “outrage” every time he opens his mouth*

    This country has faced constitutional challenges, civil war, slavery, civil unrest, market crashes, dust bowls, internment of 10s of thousands of citizens, political assassinations, and a legion of other problems that were far more dangerous to this nations fabric then anything thats happened in the past 10 years.

    Get a grip, America isn’t self destructing, freedom, Democracy, and the Republic still stand tall and GWB isn’t Satan himself out to steal your soul.

  66. Kullat Nunu

    I imagine, that the US didn’t shoot the waterboardees in the head and make nice pyramids out of their skulls afterwards.

    Yeah, people are no longer executed in the US by shooting? You have more “humane” methods to carry out the “problem”.

    The authorities can also simply “outsource” terrorist suspects into countries which don’t have problems with “quaint” human rights.

  67. Jason B

    Kallat

    Methinks you need to take a deep breath and think about the difference of years of a trial, DNA evidence, appeals, some more appeals, and the scouring of the country side to terrorize the citizens into compliance.

    Good night, I’m going home to spend time with my family knowing I’m safe thanks to the efforts of many.

  68. Kullat Nunu

    Once again equating the most free and open country with the worst of the world.

    I wonder is there any basis on the claim that the United States is the most free and open country in the world? It certainly was true when the country was founded and probably more or less true until the end of the World War II. In the case you haven’t noticed, there are many democratic and free countries all around the world.

    The sad fact is that the United States hasn’t been so “free and open” in its actions abroad. It has supported many dictatorships (currently for example Pakistan, the appallingly despotic Saudi Arabia along most Arab countries). Worser, it has helped in coups that have terminated true democraties. For example, one reason why Iranians don’t much like Americans is that their democracy was ended in the 1950s in a coup supported by CIA that brought the brutal Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi into power.

  69. jrkeller – those were certainly the wrong things to do, but I do think what we’ve been doing now is worse.

    Sometimes, I’ve got to wonder if any of tthose bound and tortured bodies found in Iraq were killed by Americans or by American orders, that’s how cynical I’ve become about some members of our military/CIA.

  70. Grayson

    skeptigirl
    Says:

    September 29th, 2006 at 11:22 am
    Grayson Says:
    Let us not forget that habeas corpus was suspended during the Civil War by President Lincoln and during Reconstruction by President Grant.

    And your point is? We also interred Japanese citizens in WWII, had legalized slavery, denied women the vote and property rights, had a period of mass hysteria during the McCarthy era, and went to war in Vietnam and Iraq under false pretenses.

    Whoopie, it’s OK. It isn’t the first time.

    We have officially arrived in the country our parents warned us about. Remember those horrible commies that didn’t have any human rights in their awful godless countries? Oh, but this bill only applies to the other guys, those legal residents who aren’t real citizens. So it’s different.

    I can only hope this is short lived and doesn’t deteriorate any further. November will be one of the most important elections ever for people to speak out and say whether or not they support this government.

    My point is that it has happened before. As a historian I simply make this point.

    Oh, and BA, I won’t be frequenting this site any longer (there are too many political blogs out there already).

  71. “What more do you want? A trial for every guy we pick up on the battlefield? Your want to give unlawful combatants, who violate the Geneva Convention and do not fall under its protections, more rights than lawful combatants?”

    Well… Yes, frankly. I do want all of that. Because we’re supposed to be better people. I don’t want safety if it comes at the price of dignity, freedom, and human rights. That’s the trade-off we’re making, and you, Jason, are on the wrong side of it. You’re completely reprehensible.

    And for that mater, shame on you for playing the relativist game here. Shame, shame, shame. Certain things are just wrong, no matter who does it or why. Torture is one of them.

  72. agesilaus

    In no war that the US has fought has the other side honors the genveva rules of war. The Germans did not, nor the Japs, nor the North Koreans, nor the Chinese, not the North Vietnamese, and not the Russians and the Iraqis didn’t either. And especially not these terrorists.

    These terrorists could quite legally under the conventions be dragged out to the nearest tree and hanged at any time. They are not parties to the conventions, they do not wear uniforms, they have no command structure and they themselves reject the conventions. They are out side of the legal structure and are partisans who are legally subject to summary execution.

    Why don’t you try looking at the facts before spouting nonsense, you are supposed to be a scientist after all.

  73. Paul

    I visit (or rather, USED to visit) your site to read about interesting things regarding astronomy. If I want to read Democratic Party talking points, I’ll go to Democrats.org, Daily Kos, or one of the other moonbat sites.

  74. Frank

    What does this post have to do with astronomy…I get it, you are a liberal, but I like your thoughts on science, you are getting close to the Huffington blogspot, please stick to items related to science

  75. CR

    So now scientists, like entertainers, are not supposed to voice their opinion on matters political? To all who contemplate leaving this site just because of political therads: instead of running away, voice your dissent (as you already have), stop name calling and JUST SKIP THE POLITICAL THREADS. So what if ANY scientist has political opinions? As long as those opinions aren’t making up lies about the science, just read the science.
    I normally don’t care for the political rants on any side, yet I’ll still come here for the science news.
    For the record, I’ll also go elsewhere for science news in addition to coming here. Just because I generally like this site doesn’t mean I think it’s the only one out there. But just because politcal opinions are put up here doesn’t mean I’ll abandon this site, either. Sheesh! Talk about getting a grip!

  76. CR

    By the way, I believe Phil Plait has gone on record as saying he’d verbally (or blog-ally) blast any liberal or Democrat that abused science as well… he doesn’t just target conservatives nor Republicans.
    Please correct me if I’m in error about that.
    And Phil, if that is indeed the gist of what you’ve said in the past, perhaps a reminder (and active example, if available) would help calm things down a bit.

  77. jrkeller

    Laurie Mann,

    You stated,

    “We didn’t have to trammel the Constitution during WWII or WWI or even Viet Nam.”

    We surely did trammel the Constitution during those times. Putting thousands of American citizens in internment camps simply because they had Japenese acestors (62% were US citizens) without any sort of trial clearly was a violation of the Constution and the Bill of Rights. Amendments 4,5,6 and possibly 9 were all violated. I would bet that the 2nd Amendment was also violated. There was no Habeas Corpus here.

    To the rest of you,

    Instead of whining, writing blogs, posting on BB and calling each other names, get off your butts or out from behind your monitors and do something. Join a political party (it’s pretty cheap), attend their party meetings, help a candidate run for office or do something meaningful. I have.

  78. Joshua

    Why do you assume that we don’t, jr? Because we’re on the internet? Aren’t you, as well? Does that mean you’re equally useless?

    I’ve done my duty as a citizen since I earned my voting rights five years ago, and I continue to do it now. But there’s only so much I can do, especially as I live in a state that’s solidly blue. Mind you, I’m pretty damned happy about that right now. None of the Congressmen from my state voted for this atrocity, and I’m proud to say it.

    But you’ve got all these other bastards drowning us sane people out, and I can’t tell you what’s to be done about them. They should have been better educated about what democracy means and why the legal protections of the Constitution and Bill of Rights are important — even if those protections do make us less safe, which is something I do not believe and never have believed. But it’s too late for that now. The damage is done, and the people are either not voting or voting without an understanding of the stakes.

    I hope for all our sakes that enough of them wise up and get sick of this disgusting treatment to vote out the traitors in Congress who decided yesterday to throw out 900 years of legal tradition and turn their backs 230 years of American freedom for a little bit of imaginary safety. But I’m not hopeful.

  79. Greetings from a fellow UVa-PhD. I’m a lot more politically conservative than most of the people who read this blog, I would guess — and I’m appalled by what was done today. Disgraceful. I don’t know our Congress anymore.

  80. Frank

    Interesting that you would take the term liberal as me name calling CR…guess it is a dirty word. Phil can write anything he wants on his blog, and now I will probably come back here less than previously. No skin off his nose and none off mine. I agree with Phil’s critical thinking regarding the Intellegent design issue to a point, I happen to beleive that HE started the whole ball rolling and how the ball bounces and shakes around is based on HIS parameters…does that make me a kooky right wing Christian? Enjoy life, its the only one you have on this earth

  81. Economist

    >Say we increased our importing of oil from there by fifty percent, and using some conservation methods, were able to tell countires we suspected of harboring terrorists that we weren’t going to buy there aymore, until they, themselves, took care of whatever group we didn’t like within their borders.

    Non-sense. They’ll sell it someone else, who’ll sell it to us (UK, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Belarus, Mexico or even Russia you mentioned). For example, U.S. may not participate in secondary-embargo itself, so it is unlikely to be followed by others. Economic profit on arbitrage to clear a market provides strong incentives. So we may end up paying slightly above whatever price and they get slightly less. But oil is largely fungible and widely traded, so with small-enough transaction costs, the prices won’t change too much either. Except that the markets may reevaluate their expectations that the US trade policy is more random than usual and extra volatility, also known as risk, is a bad thing.

    But say you managed to reduce Iran’s (I imagine that’s the suggested country) oil profits by 15% at expense of American gains from trade. Terrorists’ income is smaller by, say, 3% and Iran’s civilliation population loses 12% (it can’t be otherwise, unless you were specifically importing from Al-Qaeda’s supply chain). Might as well shoot people randomly, in “hope” they are terrorists (NOT!).

  82. I am quite frankly appalled at this post. So many people that think of themselves as patriots who are so upset by what people are saying that they want to quash the first admendment as well as the others listed above. Freedom of speech (and expression) is designed to protect that which you do NOT want to hear!

    Honestly though, yes habeus corpus was suspended once before during the Civl War (a much greater threat to or nation) and wasfound to be unconsitutional………..after the fact. Will the Supreme Court find it unconstitutional now….probably…after the fact. Does this mean that this is right? Absoultely not IMO. The brightest light of freedom that exists in the world is getting steadily dimmer beginning with the Patriot Act (I find it hard to trust anything labeled such as this, does this mean you’re unpatriotic if you have problems with detaining people with no evidence and no court oversight?) up until this….thing. What comes next? Internment camps? Oops we already have those!

    So, nobody has any ideas besides torture to keep our nation safe? How about a larger military to do more than wave the flag in Iraq and Afghanistan and quash the insurgencies? Maybe give the generals the troops they said they needed for stability in post-Sadam Iraq? How about going after the people we are sure that have attacked us? Have any of these poor bastards in the internment camps told us where Osama is?

    Does keeping people prisoner far from hier homes win us any FRIENDS in the Middle East? I’d say we’re in dire need of some, wouldn’t you? I wouldn’t be your friend if you were keepng my father, brother, son or cousin in Cuba or a proxied torture camp. In fact I’d probably be looking to take up arms against you regardless of what my views were prior to that.

    Another thing is I sincerely doubt that the “terrorists hate us because we are a free country”. They’ll hate us just us much after we start posting immigration police at state lines looking for terrorists…. or any other foriegn national legal or otherwise they find. The terrorists hate us because for many reasons, such as: we support the brutal regimes in the middle east which opress them and thier families; we certainly have the appearence of being anti-Islamic in our national policies wether it’s true or not (open to debate IMO); and last but not least we’re not an Islamic country.

    More than that this is the wrong way to go because it is quite frankly WRONG. If we become our enemy and use tactics that they would in fact use against us won’t make us win, it will make us lose our moral perogative if we haven’t already. Moral high ground matters as some of the previous posts have pointed out. How can you be upset about what they do to us when we are doing wrong as well?

    P.S. To Mr. Plait, I am a very long term reader and first time poster. My hat is off to you for speaking your mind. While this is not an astronomy related subject you are dong the right thing as an American and speaking out against what you see as wrong in the forum that you have available to you. Wether or not your readers agree with you and even if I didn’t, it still sound like the act of a patriot….who just happens to be an astronomer.

  83. Ktesibios

    For me the issue isn’t so much the question of whether watergboarding or any of the other secret-police-creep methods of extracting confessions meet some specific definition of “torture”.

    I think the really important issue is whether the potential of being deprived of life, liberty or property remain in the hands of a truly independent judiciary or whether they become mere administrative functions of an all-powerful executive. Whether or not this particular bill breaks the camel in two, there has definitely been a thrust towards the “administrative fiat” model on the part of the current Washington regime for the duration of its existence, and we can rationally expect that to continue.

    “In that case your sentence will be pronounced administratively.” Does anyone here recognize that quote? Does anyone really want to take the risk of living in that book?

  84. TheGalaxyTrio

    R.I.P. Bad Astronomy

    As a libertarian mimded person, I don’t support the bill in question, but this web site has just become another mindless, hysterical, overreacting, Chicken Little poltical bashing forum.

    This panic over what is just another in a long series of Constitutional challenges (a series that started in 1776, and will continue into the far future) is about the level of those who seriously believed Planet X was going to hit the Earth.

    Phil, you have become what you once criticized: a monochromatic, oversimplistic, hyperbolic moonbat who traffics in preschool level models of the world and reductio ad absurdum arguments- just in politics instead of science.

    Good riddance and good luck.

  85. bad Jim

    Paul, Frank and TheGalaxy trio, don’t let the door hit you on the butt. You won’t be missed.

  86. Rumour Mongerer

    Am I the only one flashing back to the witch trials here…

  87. PK

    Paul, Frank and TheGalaxy trio, don’t kid yourself. You’ll be back to this blog, if only to vow again that you leave forever. It’s pathetic. If you really don’t enjoy this thread, why do you read the 90+ comments?

  88. John

    Rumour Mongerer – No, there was some other Cassandra above talking about McCarthyism.

    I think small doses of politics is healthy for any site.

  89. Couldn’t agree more, and delighted to see Phil’s take on the action in the Senate. I had written a more lengthy but similar observation at http://www.turningleft.net.

    You do a tasteful job commenting on politics and science. How long until NASA is completely swallowed up by the Defense Dept. and the only science we see in this country is for the expansion of some pols Napoleonic obsessions?

  90. J. D. Mack

    Let’s not forget this part of Harry Reid’s essay:

    “I strongly believe this legislation is unconstitutional. It will almost
    certainly be struck down by the Supreme Court.”

    The darkness is not yet total.

    J. D.

  91. John

    Joshua – “Well… Yes, frankly. I do want all of that. Because we’re supposed to be better people. I don’t want safety if it comes at the price of dignity, freedom, and human rights. That’s the trade-off we’re making, and you, Jason, are on the wrong side of it. You’re completely reprehensible.”

    I think you mean me, not Jason. You shouldn’t equate someone disagreeing with you on an issue to being reprehensible. We disagree. I don’t think you’re a bad person for disagreeing with me; why would you think that of me? We’re both patriotic Americans. These are difficult issues with many different moral dimensions. I realize it’s easy for me to say this, since my side has been kicking the crap out of your side in every election since 2000, but still, show some civility.

    Btw, we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic.

    Don’t you recognize that there are severe issues with giving all of these guys a court trial? There are no rules of evidence or chains of custody on a battlefield. Troops don’t read Miranda rights to people they capture. There are pressing issues of intelligence that have to be exploited immediately because lives are at stake. Do we then let known bad guys go because we obtained that intel by coersion, only to see them take up arms against our country again? It’s a dilemma, and you refuse to recognize the legitimate other sides of the issue.

    The Geneva Conventions say you can’t try prisoners. But you can hold military tribunals for those who commit war crimes. Most detainees are not protected by the Geneva Conventions – they don’t qualify, for the 4 reasons agesilaus points out above. So do we treat them as common criminals, giving them MORE rights than legitimate POWs would get under the conventions, while hamstringing our intel gathering efforts? Brian Ross says that we broke up at least a dozen plots, including one to crash jetliners into the Library Tower in LA. Is it worth waterboarding KSM to save those lives? Does KSM then get a pass to go free because our interest in saving those lives outweighs his civil rights? The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

  92. jason b

    agesilaus,
    Stop confusing the argument with the facts!

    Joshua,
    My point was that what you call ‘torture’, I call getting information from an enemy who has VOWED to kill you. Torture serves no pupose.

    To many on this blog who are convinced that freedom itself just died, what would be an acceptable questioning technique? Should we play 20 questions? If they don’t wish to talk; no desert? Weather you wish to admit it or not these folks are at war with us.

    BadA,
    Still love the site. You had the link to the shuttle/space station photo 2 or 3 days before Drudge. (Okay Cafeenman you can start pounding away at your keyboard now telling me what a vile website he has. ) I think a healthy discourse on matters such this helps to break up the monotany of trying to figure out the universe through space exploration. One last quick question. As you are a scientist could you please tell me how 100 years of man made CO2 emissions caused the glaciers to receed 15,000 years ago?

    Its early just thought I’d tweak ya.

  93. Peptron

    (For some reasons, my last post was blocked as spam)

    John: Btw, we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic.

    Last time I checked, the United States were still a democracy, no matter how hard people try to change that. I don’t see how there is a link or a contradiction between democracy and republic.

    France is a republic and a democracy as are the United States
    North Korea is a republic but not a democracy
    Canada is not a republic and is a democracy
    Saudi Arabia is neither a republic nor a democracy

  94. Bruce

    A dark day? We entered the dark ages when the axis of evil, Bush/Cheney/Falwell, began the Christian Taliban takeover.

  95. Thomas Wentzel

    Non-citizen enemy combatants are not entitled to the same rights and priviledges as American Citizens! We are trying to protect ourselves from terrorists trying to kill us. I don’t care about terrorists rights, they have none! This is a war between 21st Century Rationalism and 7th Century
    Monotheism, and we must use whatever means required to win. I don’t want to democritize terrorists, I want to kill them.

  96. Michael

    Hate to interrupt all this happy Republican bashing with any facts, but the vote was 65-34 in the Senate. Doesn’t that mena some Democrats also voted for the bill…?

  97. TheBlackCat

    For everybody who thinks that what we are doing is right, I should probably quote few passages from the Declaration of Independence. These list grievances that we had against Great Britain, the reasons we split away and formed our own country:

    “For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:”

    “For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:”

    “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.”

  98. Thomas Wentzel

    Current: In an interview with the BBC last week, Abu Izzadeen, the radical Muslim who disrupted the Home Secretary’s speech in dramatic fashion, explains that Sharia and democracy are incompatible:

    Democracy means sovereignty for man; and as a Muslim, we believe in the sovereignty of Sharia…

    Abu Izzadeen goes on to say that since Allah created the entire planet, all of its people belong under Sharia, and Muslims should work to bring this about through “Islamic methodology” (which, he makes clear, is not via the democratic process).

    Moderates may prefer to see Sharia established through democracy, but it won’t feel any better once it’s here. (At least we were warned…).

    And you folks are worried about terrorist rights and Christian fundimentalists? WAKE UP! Peace is OVER. It’s kill or be killed, and I want History to record that Western Rationalism triumphed over Primitive Theism.

  99. “Non-citizen enemy combatants are not entitled to the same rights and priviledges as American Citizens!”

    I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but Americans don’t have these right either anymore. Or maybe you’ve never heard of Jose Padilla?

    Besides, my understanding of the Constitution was always that these rights were intrinsic to us as human beings – not granted to us by a benevolent government.

    It’s hilarious to read people saying “this blog has gotten too political, I’m outta here!”. Phil posts maybe one political blog a month.

  100. Chip

    Thomas Wentzel said:
    “Non-citizen enemy combatants are not entitled to the same rights and privileges as American Citizens!”

    The passing of this bill applies to American Citizens – including you. The bill discards the checks and balances put forth by the Framers of the U.S. Constitution. There is nothing in it to prevent a Machiavellian political persecution of Americans who oppose the policies of whoever is in office.

  101. skeptigirl

    Darn, I was so hoping The Black Cat’s wonderful post would remain the last word.

    Apparently Joe, Confuddled, Grayson, Paul, and TheGalaxyTrio, prefer not to be disturbed thinking about current political events and haven’t figured out they can skip blog entries. I hope they do figure out they can skip the polls on election day.

    John has an odd rationalization of the Arar case. OTOH he says we sent the Canadian Arar to Syria but would not have expected Syria to torture Arar for information since we have such poor relations with Syria. OTOH, if we suspected Arar of terrorism why would we send him to a country that we believe supports terrorism, especially given there were 2 choices?

    If there was any real evidence against Arar, we could have arrested him. If there was no evidence, a trip to Canada was certainly cheaper and they could have kept an eye on him for us. Did Syria torture Arar for us to get US brownie points?

    I’m waiting for more evidence to make sense of this case because as it stands right now, my conclusion based on this evidence is we sent Arar to Syria because we knew Syria would torture him and that was the actual goal. There was no information expected.

    The other possible conclusions are we sent a terrorist back to a country that would welcome him and he could continue to be a threat. Afterall, as a citizen of Canada, what would have stopped him from just returning to Canada from Syria? Or perhaps the Syrians made a deal with the US to seek information from Arar for us. But then we supposedly don’t make deals with terrorists now do we? The best explanation for this case is we sent Arar to Syria with the goal they would torture him, (there was evidence to that effect because his family had political enemies in the Syrian government).

    That may sound implausible as well, but it better explains the actions of the US than we just arbitrarily picked Syria over Canada. If torture wasn’t the intended deterrent for this guy, sending him to Syria would have only deterred him from returning to Canada by a day or so.

    Based on the suspcicious events in the Arar case alone, does it appear the Bush government is being truthful about this whole interrogation thing? The case of the German man abducted in Macedonia revealed the secret prisons we are using outside the US. These are the actions of a President routinely disregarding the intent of the law, if not the laws themselves.

  102. TheBlackCat

    The law does NOT only apply to non-US citizens (at least not the version approved by the house and senate).

    Under section 948a Definitions:

    `(1) UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT- (A) The term `unlawful enemy combatant’ means–

    `(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or

    `(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.

    This says nothing about them being aliens. Now later, under section 948d Jurisdiction of military commissions, it says:

    `(a) Jurisdiction- A military commission under this chapter shall have jurisdiction to try any offense made punishable by this chapter or the law of war when committed by an alien unlawful enemy combatant before, on, or after September 11, 2001.

    (emphasis added)

    Now that looks like they are restricting it to only aliens. But later on in the same subsection:

    `(c) Determination of Unlawful Enemy Combatant Status Dispositive- A finding, whether before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense that a person is an unlawful enemy combatant is dispositive for purposes of jurisdiction for trial by military commission under this chapter.

    (emphasis added)

    Note that this section says nothing about the subject being alien. So under this clause anyone determined to be an unlawful combatant by any tribunal set up by the US president at any time, whether they be alien or not, is subject to the provisions of this law. It very much applies to US citizens.

    There is no definition in the law for “competent tribunal”, so it appears that the president can set up any tribunal he wants and then find anybody he wants to be an “unlawful enemy combatant” with no oversight.

    There are other problems. There is no trial by jury. Under Sec. 948i. Who may serve on military commissions, the miltiary gets to decide those who will be the “jury” for the case (actually officers of the US military). This is the most unjust thing I can possibly imagine. Do you know how easy it would be to stack the “jury” with people who are sure to agree with the prosecution. In fact, they specifically say “judicial temperament” is a valid criteria on which to decide potential “jurors”.

  103. Dave Huntsman

    The absolute worst part is: this bill didn’t have to pass. it didn’t have enough for a filibuster. A single Senator – a Biden, for example, who has announced he is running for President again – could have stopped it. A Kerry could have stopped it. Yet when the time came, all these brave souls who think they are worthy of promotion, just timidly raised their hands to say ‘no’ – and then shut up and stared at the floor, frightened of their own shadows.
    Below is a letter I wrote to Sen.McCain, someone I have financially supported in the past; I sent a similar one to Sen. Biden.
    Dave

    29sept06
    Senator McCain –
    I’m in my 50s; and your 2000 Campaign for President was the only time I’ve contributed to a Presidential campaign.

    Why, Senator? Why have you given up on us – our Constitution – on everything you’ve previously fought – and suffered – for, by caving on the ‘terrorist detainee’ bill? It violates our Constitution. It violates our laws; it violates our principles. What I thought were your principles.
    And you could have stopped it. Just you. Hell, it wasn’t even filibuster proof, either.

    Something in America died this week, Senator. And you could have stopped it. And you didn’t.
    Please, take my name and address – and the phone number your Republican machine has of mine – out of the database.
    But me asking you to do that doesn’t bring America, the Constitution, and our laws and values back.
    I’m only in my 50s. But I’ve never felt we were paralleling Nazi Germany of the 1930s more in my life, than right now, this minute.
    And you could have stopped it. A Profile in Courage. Remember when another US Senator used those words in a book? He gave as an example a single Senator who bucked his party to keep Andrew Johnson from being (unjustly) removed from office.

    I guess Senators don’t believe in things like that any more. Not ones running for ‘higher’ office, anyway. Do you really, really think you can wipe the much off you, after you get to the White House? That it won’t stick?

    Dave Huntsman
    Cleveland

  104. muñoz

    i’m from a spanish speaking country, excume my wording, but this bill is forever and ever??? the next administration: could annull it???? if so, please vote well in the next election and case close!!!

  105. skeptigirl

    While the next administration can change it, it pardons all past incidents where torture, kidnapping, and illegal incarceration might have occurred had this not been the law. Many people have commented that one of the main purposes of this bill was to prevent the prosecution of anyone who may have already committed crimes in the Bush administration including Bush. His top level people have been ordering hundreds of people tortured and imprisoned without trial already. While most were not American citizens, at least one was:

    Jose Padilla
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Padilla_%28alleged_terrorist%29

    Padilla was arrested in May, 2002. When there wasn’t evidence to charge him with any actual crimes, (his crime was he spent extensive time with probable terrorists), Bush declared him an enemy ‘combatant’ and had him sent to a military brig. He remained there for 3.5 years without being charged. And while a lower court ruled the government could keep holding him, the Bush administration feared a Supreme Court ruling against the government. Better to try this guy than to have a final ruling that arresting a US citizen on US soil and then voiding the person’s habeas corpus rights by labeling him an enemy combatant was illegal. In fact, if the Bush government does it again, they can put the next citizen into the 3+ year holding tank and repeat the process.

    Padilla was indicted on charges that he plotted to kill people overseas. We have not seen the evidence but let me guess, someone fingered Padilla to stop from being tortured. The original claims by the government were that Padilla was plotting to set off a “dirty bomb” in the US. The Bush administration has made sure Padilla’s name has been synonymous with “dirty bomber” indicating he planned to use a radioactive bomb.

    I don’t know what evidence the government really has. Obviously they didn’t have much or they would have tried him three years ago. And maybe Padilla has been hanging out with terrorists. Maybe he is dangerous.

    So are men that threaten to kill their ex-girlfriends and ex-wives but all we do in those cases is file court orders for no-contact and wait until the guy actually goes after the poor woman.

    Drunk drivers are dangerous, level 3 sex offenders are dangerous, the list is endless.

    If you have evidence, arrest the terrorists and charge them. If all you have is a tortured person’s claim (or confession), or the fact the guy went to Afghanistan, or attended the same Mosque as known terrorists, that is not evidence of anything, that is merely suspicion. And for mere suspicion we sent Arar, later cleared of any association with any terrorists or even friends of terrorists, to be TORTURED FOR OVER A YEAR, KEPT IN A CELL AS BIG AS A COFFIN FOR MORE THAN A YEAR!!!

    The innocent German guy had a similar fate. Even after the Bush administration learned the German was entirely innocent, they debated for several months how to release him without causing an incident with the German government. These people did not care they had held and tortured an innocent man. They cared it was going to be embarrassing.

    As far as it being an unconstitutional law, it may be but they can follow it in the mean time and it won’t go before the Supreme Court for at least a couple years.

  106. skeptigirl

    John says The bill has specific language on who is to be considered an enemy combatant and not. What more do you want? A trial for every guy we pick up on the battlefield?

    If you don’t have to produce evidence for a crime, if the detained person cannot talk to anyone, let alone a lawyer, then what difference does it make what the bill defines as an enemy combatant? There’s no mechanism in place at all to defend against the charge.

    And as to being picked up on the battlefield, I could agree with that. But most of these people are not being picked up on a battlefield. Convenient Bush admin talking points: we are torturing them to find out where the nuclear bomb is and they are ‘combatants’. Neither of these talking point examples represents the detainees they are used to represent.

    There have been many claims of torture revealing terror plots that were then thwarted. Considering the fanfare over group with the liquids on planes and the wannabes in FL that were arrested as terror plotters, I’d have to conclude this is the best the government’s gotten as far as thwarting plots. Both cases have been way overblown as far as the risk posed and neither resulted from torture confessions as far as I know. Yet both cases were flaunted in the media as government successes. Doesn’t it make you wonder why the government hasn’t flaunted a few more of these successes? They tell us there have been some.

    I’ll look into the claim, John that, “[Ross] says we stopped a dozen terror plots because we waterboarded KSM, Ramsi Bin-Alshib, Zubaydah, etc.,” but if it only turns out to be a claim, then maybe you can figure out why there was no gloating publicity like with the two events we did hear about. Can’t be too secret if the names of the confessors are public.

    John saysDon’t you recognize that there are severe issues with giving all of these guys a court trial? There are no rules of evidence or chains of custody on a battlefield. Troops don’t read Miranda rights to people they capture. There are pressing issues of intelligence that have to be exploited immediately because lives are at stake. Do we then let known bad guys go because we obtained that intel by coersion, only to see them take up arms against our country again? It’s a dilemma, and you refuse to recognize the legitimate other sides of the issue.

    That part we get, John. Now how about addressing the real world version where the people we’ve detained were not picked up in a battle? There are the poor saps who were turned in by someone claiming the 5K reward for turning in Taliban, no questions asked, in Afghanistan, like that would be a reliable way to find the bad guys. And then there are the rest like Arar who were picked up after a rumor or other very unreliable bit of info.

  107. Darth Bill

    An act of congress can make the law, and pull it back.

    The reason for the law is so there is legal backing to acts that have and are not defined by the Geneva Convention. Considering that this has been passed by an elected body, and can be revolked by an elected body, I don’t see this as the end of democracy.

    I did hear that the bill mentioned that citizens can appeal to the DC Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the land, but I’m not sure if the wording is actually in the bill.

    The suspension of HC isn’t unheard of, but I am not sure if it completely applies here. As far as I knew, the constitution doesn’t speak much about aliens and the country relies upon the acts and laws set up by congress in that regard.

    Sorry, I’m one of those moonbat conservatives (and christian no less) that isn’t really disturbed by this. I can honestly say that under a democratic administration, it wouldn’t bother me either. I personally think there are other checks and balances than just that written in the constitution. I think most people act with honor. So far, my faith hasn’t been shaken all that much.

    I do think that to prosecute this “war” like a criminal investigation is silly. We are fighting an ideology that begins with “We want to kill you.” I don’t know if you can rationally work with that.

    Aside from tyranny, oppression, slavery, facism,
    communism and nazism, war never solved anything.

  108. Kevjohnno

    What would be the reaction of US Gov and citizens of US citizens were held, interogated and tried under identical legislation by any other country?

  109. e sciaroni

    Are Americans really so frightened by the terrorists?

    Do we imagine that we can gain security by surrendering our freedom?

  110. skeptigirl

    So Darth Bill, as a Christian, how do you feel our government authorized and carried out acts that involved wrongful imprisonment and torture of at least 2 people for more than a year each, on the flimsiest of evidence and those 2 people had absolutely no recourse, no way to prove their innocence? Do you believe the risks posed by some terrorists justified this grievous error, even though no terrorist incidents were prevented by the specific treatment of these two men?

    And just how many innocent people is it OK to torture and falsely imprison in order to prevent how many bombings? How many new terrorists are converted by these policies and how many are caught and stopped? Think we are gaining on them?

    Kevjohnno reminds us, every country in the world is not harboring terrorists. This policy means we have put ourselves above the citizens in every other country. We have rights, they don’t. Remember, this isn’t just non-citizens who made the choice to come here that the policy is referring to.

    Kullat Nunu Says:Once again equating the most free and open country with the worst of the world. I wonder is there any basis on the claim that the United States is the most free and open country in the world?

    agesilaus Says:In no war that the US has fought has the other side honors the genveva rules of war. The Germans did not, nor the Japs, nor the North Koreans, nor the Chinese, not the North Vietnamese, and not the Russians and the Iraqis didn’t either. And especially not these terrorists….These terrorists could quite legally under the conventions be dragged out to the nearest tree and hanged at any time. They are not parties to the conventions, they do not wear uniforms, they have no command structure and they themselves reject the conventions. They are out side of the legal structure and are partisans who are legally subject to summary execution.

    Didn’t the US take pride in those facts? That we were humane, we had moral principles that the barbarians did not? That we were better than they were? Seems to me it was an image to be proud of. And there was surely a greater danger then than now.

  111. CR

    Slightly off-topic, but just to clarify my earlier points (September 29, 2006 at 8:29 & at 8:34) about name-calling…
    I was referring to ALL who name call, not just to people on one side of the fence or the other. I never specifically referred to any one poster’s comments.
    I will do so now, though:

    “Frank
    Says:

    September 29th, 2006 at 10:32 pm
    Interesting that you would take the term liberal as me name calling CR…guess it is a dirty word. Phil can write anything he wants on his blog, and now I will probably come back here less than previously. No skin off his nose and none off mine. I agree with Phil’s critical thinking regarding the Intellegent design issue to a point, I happen to beleive that HE started the whole ball rolling and how the ball bounces and shakes around is based on HIS parameters…does that make me a kooky right wing Christian? Enjoy life, its the only one you have on this earth”

    Frank, if you’re still here, I was not saying your use of the word liberal made “liberal” a form of name-calling, nor was I saying you specifically were name-calling. In fact, I wasn’t really responding to your original post (Sep 29, 2006 at 8:05), which appeared just before my first post. I was simply trying to make a point to ANYONE who’s tired of political discussions here… trying to be generic enough so that anyone reading my post could understand that if political discussions at a science forum bother them, JUST SKIP THE POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS. I really am sorry if that wasn’t clear. I’m not sure I understand in your 10:32 post if you were asking if I thought you were a “kooky right wing Christian” regarding your views about Intelligent Design. I never said nor implied such a thing on this thread.

    Now, speaking to the audience at large again…

    Ultimately, if political discussions are enough reason for anyone to want to leave here, well, that’s certainly your choice and your right. But why leave with insulting name calling (“moonbat” is just one example that seems to be quite popular) as a parting shot? I’m not naive enough to whine “can’t we all just get along?”, but I think hurling insults is counterproductive at the very least.
    For that matter, lest anyone think I’m just bashing anyone who doesn’t side with Phil or something, I don’t think insulting anyone who wants to leave is productive, either.

    Does everyone get my point? Quit being rude to each other. Voice opinions, disagree, leave or stay. But quit being derisive.

    Now, I’m going to TRY to find some science news around here. Or elsewhere, if it comes to that.

  112. Scott

    When I read the topic, I thought sure that you wre trying to try to start a grass-roots campaign for us in the US to turn off our lights to enjoy the night sky, as they did in Iceland. There’s not a single mention of science in this post! Leave the politics to the politicians, and if you don’t like what’s going on, change it when it’s time to vote!

  113. When I read the topic, I thought sure that you wre trying to try to start a grass-roots campaign for us in the US to turn off our lights to enjoy the night sky, as they did in Iceland. There’s not a single mention of science in this post! Leave the politics to the politicians, and if you don’t like what’s going on, change it when it’s time to vote!

    Democracy doesn’t begin and end at the voting booth. We’re granted the freedom of speech in this country, but it was never intended as just a priviledge. It carries with it the obligation for any and everyone who sees a problem with the government to speak out about it. Phil has seen an egregious problem here, and has chosen to use his widely-read blog to spread word of it. It’s his blog, and he has no obligation to keep it off of politics.

    I’d also like to ask you this: Would you be complaining if his viewpoint matched your own? If the answer is no, then I’ll ask you to leave, check your hypocrisy at the door, and return so we can have a civilized discussion.

  114. skeptigirl

    Skip the blog entries you don’t like Scott, really, it isn’t hard.

    Frank Says: ..I happen to beleive that HE started the whole ball rolling and how the ball bounces and shakes around is based on HIS parameters…

    WAITING FOR THE RAPTURE, FRANK?

    Sorry , CR, I couldn’t resist.

  115. skeptigirl

    Just a few more diehard comments..

    Jason B Says:Now which party fights tooth and nail to avoid becoming energy independent. Alaska. Might spoil the view for some carribou. Gulf of Mexico. Might despoil the water. Wind power. Spoils the Kennedy’s view. Nuclear. Let the screaming begin.

    Neither party has done much to increase energy independence, certainly you aren’t claiming the Republicans have? That’s what happens when both parties are dependent on corporate money for campaigns, and, to borrow an idea from a you-tube tune I just heard, we’re all putting yellow magnets on our SUVs. (Though I don’t own one.)

    Jason B To those of you who claim communists were just a buggaboo to scare people with could you please tell me to the nearest ten million how many people were killed under Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot? Makes Hitler look like a rank amature.

    What is the point of this comment? Are you claiming if one is against some specific actions of this government we must be for communism? Who said anything about our capitalist economic system? I, for one, and most everyone else I’ve read comments from here against this bill and what it represents are against this bill and what it represents. Personally I think the Iraq war was wrong, and Bush is incompetent. Nothing in that belief nor the posts of others suggests anything of the kind that our system of government is the problem. The problem is Bush is threatening our system of government, not the other way around.

    Jason B I constantly hear that torture doesn’t work….Now are many of you so jaded that you think the military would use other methods just to get their kicks….You make the comparison of the US military attempting to wring information out of what are many times hardened criminals that is for the benifit of protecting you and your family and the sensless torture of common peasants for not thinking the right way.

    Research, example, and experts have all shown that torture is ineffective, guards do get out of control and often, (Remember that famous college research project where the students assigned to be guards became so abusive toward the students assigned to be prisoners they had to stop the study?), acting on the false information is wasteful, and the damage to our image as a country has fed the terrorist fervor probably irreversibly. And all we have is the Bush people claiming they have gotten all this valuable information. The evidence says something else.

    Calli Arcale Says: The sad thing is that many people will judge this on partisan grounds. Which, of course, is why an abomination like this was allowed to pass. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” But ya know, this is not about evil Republicans or evil conservatives. Real conservatives would be appalled. And Republicans? The very concept of a republic relies on certain freedoms.

    Mike Says: Greetings from a fellow UVa-PhD. I’m a lot more politically conservative than most of the people who read this blog, I would guess — and I’m appalled by what was done today. Disgraceful. I don’t know our Congress anymore.

    Michael Says: Hate to interrupt all this happy Republican bashing with any facts, but the vote was 65-34 in the Senate. Doesn’t that mena some Democrats also voted for the bill…?

    It isn’t a partisan issue. It may seem like one to most people looking at it. I’m disgusted the Democrats who voted for this bill were worried about looking weak on terrorism. They didn’t stand up and speak the truth. This bill is not protecting America, but it is making more terrorists.

    And I hope the Republicans who know something is wrong when they see it, will show those legislators with their vote that this bill does not represent the will of most Americans. It is based on false pretenses and failed policy. It is un-American.

    To Black Cat’s post reminding us what this country was founded on:

    Referring to the King of England and why we chose to declare independence, “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power:
    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
    For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:”

    I would add two more lines from that document:

    “… abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments
    For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.”

    And I would add another comment about that document:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”, doesn’t exclude non-citizens.

    All people deserve the right to defend themselves when accused. No one deserves to be tortured and it is NOT necessary nor the most effective way to fight a war on terror. Bush may say it is necessary. But then he claims success and hides reports to the contrary from the American people. Bush has demonstrated that an expert on fighting terror he is not! The real experts all say this is not the way to win this war and it isn’t making us safer.

  116. mike Johnson

    Hi everyone. I usually check out the BA site at least twice a week. I am in the AF, and stationed in AFghanistan right now, out in the middle of nowhere. I was going to write and tell everyone how beautiful it is out here in the mountains in a country where there is very little light and perfect for star gazing…but I stumbled on this. I come to this web page to get away from name calling, finger pointing and get some enlightenment. There is enough of that everywhere else on the web.
    Please, please, please….more astronomy, less politics. I don’t need to hear that, especially when profanity and hatred are thrown in. My children readhis site as well (it’s very educatuion).
    BA, thanks for 5 years of a great experience, but I have to leave now, and it’s not becasue I disagree with this posting, it’s because I don’t think it belongs here. This is the “Bad Astronomy” site, not the bad politics, or bad decissions on the war on terrorism.

  117. Okay, lets look at this rationally and use some of the much vaunted reason we claim to follow :

    False assumption #1 :

    The “terrorists” hate us because of our “freedom” & /Or way of life.

    (Loaded and ambiguous terms in inverted commas.)

    Truth is : the main reason the “terrorists” hate us is because of our foregign policies , double standards and desire to control them eg. invading their nations (Iraq & Afghanistan) threatening and bullying their nations (Iran, Pakistan) and supporting brutal totalitarian regimes that oppress them (Saudi Arabia, Israel in relation to the Palestineans)

    False assumption # 2 :

    Torture is or can be somehow justified and the right course of action.

    I can hardly believe that people in this day and age will defend it – we know from pyschology that it will be abused and that given sufficent agony people will say anything. We also know or should know that it is totally unacceptable ethically – and sets a precedent for our own soldiers when captured. Claims of success are dubious, precedent for it is like thepredendet for slavery – just because people have committed acts of evil in the past NEVER makes it right.

    False asumption # 3 :

    The current US administration can be trusted or regarded as competent.

    Track record here prove sotherwise. How many times does Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney et al have to lie before people stop taking theirwords. WMD’s, “Iraq getting better”, “mission accomplished”, “Treatment of detaineees is excellent”, “The US doesn’t torture”, “We come in peace to bring democracy” .. ad nauseam ..

    This administration has been a disaster – fact. They’ve transformed immense global sympathy and support for the US in the wake of 9/11 into glovbal suspicion, fear and loathing by launching the wrong wars at the wrong targets and then bungled those wars catastrophically getting the United States into a mess it will take decades to get out of.

    Hereditary “president” Bush the Second simply can NOT be trusted. Not with these powers . Not with the war in Iraq that he caused and sought against American interests but in favour of an extremist anti-Muslim pro-Israeli, pro-Christian and Jewish fundamentalist ideology. Not with America’s or the Wests’ or globes future.

    Now for a solution – first you need to admit you’re going the wrong way. If thestragegy you’re on keeps getting you deeper in the manure -stop digging and start climbing out.

    Bush needs to go – the sooner the better. Ideally, he & his neo-con stribng-pullers should be impeached, arested and charged with war crimes befroe an international court for what they did to Iraq.

    America needs to stop fighting the Muslim world and admit it is NOT a world policeman, has no right to expect “full spectrum dominace ” or in other words to rule the world. It needs to respect other countries rights and cultures and, to be blunt, leave them the hell alone.

    Stop being hypocritical! Eg. Saying things like that its okay that the USA can destroy the world as we know it hundreds of times over but Iran can’t have a nuclear deterent against US or Israeli aggression or even nuclear power. Or saying that Israel has aright to defend itself but Iran doesn’t.

    Stop the unquestioning, biased funding, arming and supporting of Israel in all it does & tell Israel to make a fair and just peace with Palestine -mutually recognising them on reasonable borders with full international sovereign and human rights – or lose all funding & face sanctions like any other rogue state.

    Most of all, work with the rest of the planet instead of treating everywhere else with contempt and arrogance.

    There’s the real solution – whether America esp. under this administration has the intelligence and courage to admit its errors and adopt a better alternative or will just keep digging making things worse for itself and the rest of the planet seems sadly obvious.

    As for Phil posting onpolitics Im’m very much with him here – he has not only a right but I beleive an ethical obligation to post about this issue.

    Those that wish to bury their heads in the sand and skip such matters are free to do so – its their loss and not ours. Its not like there’s nothing else here or, really, enough political criticism of this insane Christian fundamentalist regime running America to everyone’s long-term detriment.

    In short three words apply : Justice

  118. In short apply three words : Justice not hypocrisy.

    Or

    Do unto others

    (Ie. imagine the world from Iran’s POV or Palestines rather than beeing bling blind to one side of the story.)

    Or

    Stop blind aggression.

    Oh and here’s a great idea – Set a good example :

    Start disarming your overkill heavy excessive military and WMD might
    &
    Adopt that clause General MacArthur put in Japan’s post WWII constitution -no aggression allowed.

    Offer peace to the Muslim world and you’ll most likely get it.
    Threaten war & you’ll prob’ly end up with that and more than you bargained
    for.

  119. Damien Evans

    wasn’t it ben franklin who said that a man who would give up his freedom so that he could have security deserved neither?

  120. Bill

    What has this got to do with astronomy? When did this become a political forum? This is absolutely OT.

  121. CR

    Does anyone actually READ all the posts on this one thread? How many times have I advocated SKIPPING THE POLITICAL POSTS IF YOU DON’T LIKE THEM? Yet someone always writes how he or she doesn’t think politics should be discussed on a science/astronomy board, like he or she is the first person to come up with that idea.

    I agree that the astronomy is why I come here. And I’ve been going against that by posting on this thread–what is it now?–four times. I’m doing so to see what (if any) feedback I’m getting. It’s sad that so many people seem to just skip right to the bottom to add a comment about how there shouldn’t be political discussions at an astronomy site, without seeing the points that have already been made to that effect.

    I don’t care if Phil (or any of the rest of us) want to get political, as long as the science threads are about the science so we can go there when we’re done, and so others who hate politics can go there right away. It’s really just that simple.

    By the way, to the Air Force member who wanted to write about the dark skies in Afghanistan… I suggest posting that info in the “lights out in Iceland” thread, since it pertains to that in a way. It’ll just get lost on this thread (except by those who actually read through the whole thing, of course.) Anyway, I for one would like to hear about what you had to say about the night viewing over there, so I hope you’ll post about it. (It also illustrates that just because there’s a war in that region of the world, there can still be some interesting and even beautiful things in that same region.)

  122. Does anyone actually READ all the posts on this one thread?

    To be fair, with the volume of posts on this thread, it’s a bit understandable if people don’t read them all. Of course, I still think that you should read them all if you intend to post, so that you don’t repeat something that’s already been said and answered.

  123. owlbear1

    “They will ONLY be torturing ‘others’ so that makes it all okay.”

    The last refuge of cowards who deserve niether freedom nor safety.

  124. The antiskeptigirl shadow

    skeptigirl said:
    >>> Apparently Joe, Confuddled, Grayson, Paul, and TheGalaxyTrio,
    >>> prefer not to be disturbed thinking about current political events and
    >>> haven’t figured out they can skip blog entries.

    Typical ideological claptrap. Thou who disagrees with my holy political edicts must be of inferior mind. Get over yourself.

    >>> I hope they do figure out they can skip the polls on election day.

    Or maybe we can take their right to vote away! Yeah! After all, they must be mentally handicapped to even dare have a difference of opinion with the mighty skeptigirl and BA. Skepticism against the moonbats is fine, but don’t anyone DARE show a little skepticism against BA or Saint skeptigirls preciousssssss politics.

    Typical. Mind numbingoly, wearingly typical.

  125. Even badder jim

    bad jim: wow did you come up with that whole door and the butt thing by yourself? Impressive repartee there. At least those others expressed an opinion. You only contribution was a trie childishness. Like someone would miss you. D’oh!

  126. mike Johnson

    CR,
    THanks for the words of encouragement. I shouldn’t have let my frustration show like that….and your right. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I shouldn’t let that deter me from letting everyone know how wonderful and beautiful the night skies are when there is no artificial lights for hundreds of miles and I am at 3,000 meters on a mountain range with usually 7-15% humidity. So I will take your advice and post on the “Lights Out” thread. I hope that some of you will take the time to scoot over there and read about it. It is amazing what I am witnessing here.
    What I was trying to say was that it just makes me sad to see so many smart people resort to name calling and spewing such hate just because they don’t agree with someone elses opinion or belief system. This is on both sides of the arguement. By stooping to the level of your oponent, are you any better. I LOVE politics (it’s my major), but I also LOVE science, especially astronomy, and this is my first and favorite place to get that information. It just doesn’t make sence. Yes, I have read all the postings, and I just think that it’s ironic that this site is dedicated to debunking hoaxs’ and conspiracies…but so many people are caught up in a government coverup/conspiracy. I’ve read several times about election year politics, “neo-cons” and failures on all fronts. In 6 weeks, we are all going to have the priveledge and right to vote our conscience. PLease, excercise that right. Don’t rely on news reports from the left or right, or from talking heads, becasue they are telling you what they want you to hear…massaging numbers and information to suit their needs. Do your “research”: and gather your own data.
    Challenge what you hear and are told so you can see the entire picture…Isn’t that what science is about? Isn’t that what the great astronomers did “back in the day?”
    but it’s my two cents, and I appreciate you all allowing me to have my opinion and state it. Now I’m off to the other link.

  127. Even badder jim

    mike Johnson: Well, SOME of us maintain our skepticism into the political realm, and react to mindless ideology or uninformed political spew the same way we react to Planet X devotees or the Apollo hoaxers or whatever. The skeptics can toss all sorts of names at the woo woos, but if someone treads on their precious political toes, look out!

    It’s the hypocracy.

    They can bash the fundamentally religious or the scientifically uninformed, but someone gets in their face over their broken politics, when they get a taste of their own medicine, it’s all, oh, how dare you name call! You just don’t want to think about TOUGH ISSUES[tm]. You a stoopid head!

    It’s a load. Plain and simple. They can dish it out but can’t take it.

  128. antiskeptigril shadow said:

    >>> I hope they do figure out they can skip the polls on election day.

    Or maybe we can take their right to vote away! Yeah! After all, they must be mentally handicapped to even dare have a difference of opinion with the mighty skeptigirl and BA. Skepticism against the moonbats is fine, but don’t anyone DARE show a little skepticism against BA or Saint skeptigirls preciousssssss politics.

    Typical. Mind numbingoly, wearingly typical.

    This may take the cake for most ironic comment for this entry. Skeptigirl never said anything about taking people’s right to vote away– yet in fact, the bill passed by Congress will in effect do this by allowing the President to whisk anyway anyone he chosses and hold them indefinitely with no right to appeal, ever.

    Even more ironic is the fact that a comment like this can be posted here and allowed to stay up. You may wish to think that through carefully, antiskeptigirl.

    And if you have something substantive to add, feel free. But keep otherwise keep the childish stuff off, OK?

  129. Salamander

    Hi, Phil. Long time reader, first time poster. :) Hey, if a thread is going to sound like talk radio, might as well play the part.

    What is really the heart of the controversy here, for me, is that many of us come here for some astronomy and maybe some woo woo updates. Maybe a pointer to somplace we can send email to oppose some anti-scientific whatnot.

    The Internet, the world, everything, is infested with politics. It’s the mind killer as much as fear was in “Dune”. So I come here and see MORE politics, and , feh… enough, you know? Yeah, one can skip the posts, but that’s not human nature, especially if the lead in is so hyperbolic.

    Phil can post what he wants, but it’s nice when people consider their audience. I wouldn’t expect an animal rights speech at a stockholder meeting for Tyson foods, you know? Do these pure political posts, with no real science angle, really accomplish anything? Maybe it’s cathartic for Phil. Well, OK, but don’t be suprised if it stirs up sore feelings.

    And I’m afraid I can understand the posts that accuse some here of oversimplification. I predicited the first day that someone would trot out the Benjamin Franklin quote. The response to that one is that in Ben’s day, the most powerful weapon a single man could carry was a musket. There were some more powerful devices, but it’s sort of noticable when you are carrying around a trebuchet or a cannon (cannon date back to, like, the 1100s, right?).

    I dunno… it’s just all depressing how polarized things are. I, personally will stick around, but I thought I’d try to present a middle ground of meta discussion.

  130. Frank

    skeptigirl
    Says:
    WAITING FOR THE RAPTURE, FRANK?

    Yes, at some point I believe it is coming, and I am prepared,
    Thank you for caring.

    Obviuosly you were trying to be funny. I don’t think it is, but that is my right as it is yours to disagree. I have faith in my supreme being, if that is funny to you, so be it.

  131. John

    Sorry, I’ve been building a fence for the last 2 days.

    Salamander – As well as misquoting him, as usual.

    Skeptigirl – Here’s an article on the Arar case, where AG Gonzalez says he was deported:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-arar20sep20,1,1436371.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

    (I know Gonzalez is like 3 removes from Satan himself.) From what I know, which isn’t too much, the Mounties gave us info that he was linked to Al Queda. That info was bad, and the man was done an injustice. I don’t believe we’d send him there just to get tortured, but can’t know for sure.

    “If you don’t have to produce evidence for a crime, if the detained person cannot talk to anyone, let alone a lawyer, then what difference does it make what the bill defines as an enemy combatant? There’s no mechanism in place at all to defend against the charge.”

    There is a mechanism. Each detainee is given a hearing before a review board to determine whether they are justly detained, as per the G.C. Hundreds have been released as a result. Making it a full blown criminal court case presents enormous difficulties, as evidence rules are too restrictive. You think (I gather) it’s better that actual terrorists be released to ensure that no innocents are dragged into the net. I think it’s better to make sure we’re not releasing any real terrorists (which we have done, unfortunately), even if that means some innocent Afghan farmers are held at Guantanamo. It’s a dirty war.

    “maybe you can figure out why there was no gloating publicity like with the two events we did hear about. Can’t be too secret if the names of the confessors are public.”

    Easy. It was sensitive intelligence. The enemy reads our newspapers, too. Knowing that KSM blew the details of the Library Tower plot would lead everyone involved to scatter to the four winds. Not knowing until we’d done all we can to take them into custody is an advantage for us. They (the terrorists at the business end of the plot) might not even have known that KSM was involved.

    Yeah, we’ll never know for sure if it’s BS from the CIA or not. I don’t expect them to tell us everything that goes on (despite their apparent desire to leak as much as possible). It’s a shadow war. The CIA SHOULD be kidnapping terrorists and taking them to dark places to waterboard them (as long as they don’t get busted by leaving their cell phones on; I swear that agency needs to be gutted and rebuilt). I’m sure a few innocents, like the poor German fellow, will get caught up as well. Mistakes are to be regretted, but too bad.

    And “torture” does work, as evidenced in Ross’ report. I don’t consider discomfort and waterboarding to be torture. They are effective interrogation techniques, when not used in a vacuum, i.e. when the intel revealed is matched up against other intel to determine its veracity.

    “That part we get, John. Now how about addressing the real world version where the people we’ve detained were not picked up in a battle? There are the poor saps who were turned in by someone claiming the 5K reward for turning in Taliban, no questions asked, in Afghanistan, like that would be a reliable way to find the bad guys. And then there are the rest like Arar who were picked up after a rumor or other very unreliable bit of info.”

    As I noted above, there are questions asked. And people who were wrongly detained, as best as could be determined, were released. To give them Miranda rights and all the other liberties we enjoy would be too detrimental to the war/intel effort. We would be releasing a lot of genuine bad guys, because our military and intel guys are not law enforcement officers. I’m sure plenty of innocent German farmers were captured in WW2, and held for the duration. Again, too bad. I’m comfortable with it. We’re not “being better than the enemy” by acting against our own interest. We’re being better than them by not indiscriminately beheading everyone we capture.

    “And there was surely a greater danger then than now.”

    From the Soviets, yes. Which is why “we created Bin Laden in Afghanistan” in order to help defeat them there, helped the Shah overthrow Iranian democracy, helped Pinochet take power in Chile, and supported the Contras. All hardnosed, realpolitic decisions to fight off the greater threat.

    From the Nazis, the Norks, or Vietnam? They never attacked us on US soil, they didn’t have the capability. These guys do, as demonstrated many times over.

  132. skeptigirl

    Wow! I have an anti-shadow. That is simply amazing.

  133. Chip

    The central argument is not about the capture and interrogation of enemy combatants or terrorists. It is not about giving or denying terrorists a court trial. It is about the application of points of law and the negation of former safeguards opening the danger of framing any American citizen as an enemy combatant or terrorist. No matter who is President or what majority is in Congress in the future, the bill eventually allows for anyone to be arrested and tortured.

    Also, it was stated earlier in this thread that “we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic.” The term “Republic” has nothing to do with “Republican Party”. A “republic” is a country or nation that is led by citizens whose political power is not beyond the control of the citizens. “Democracy” is a principle in which all citizens have a say in government and policy. “Democratic” refers to the desire to incorporate the principals of democracy into a republic. People sometimes forget this stuff so I just wanted to add it here. Democrats and Republicans in principle should have no problems with this.

    Then there is “Representative Democracy” – citizens electing representatives, and “Liberal Democracy” – a representative democracy with free elections. Wikipedia describes also the “protection of minorities, the rule of law, a separation of powers, and protection of liberties (thus the name liberal) of speech, assembly, religion, and property.”

    All of these principles are flexible within the circumstances of the times. But we live in times where political expedience and self-serving attitudes cloud or even circumvent the protection of the American people. Radical elitists long for a non-republic or un-democratic monarchy where fear and totalitarian rule decorated with pseudo patriotism circumvent opposing views or criticism. Aside from the actual enemies, this bill allows for America to move closer to that state.

  134. Darin

    There are lots of political blogs around to handle these topics.

    I have to agree that referring to the Constitution as Living Document on the official Senate web site is bad and, almost as bad, maybe even equally bad, referring to it’s protection towards two distinct groups – citizens and Elected Officials – combine to make it a very dark day indeed.

    BA – Please just stick to bad astronomy.

    Darin

  135. skeptigirl

    John: Here’s an article on the Arar case, where AG Gonzalez says [Arar] was deported: …I don’t believe we’d send him there just to get tortured…

    Gonzales said “Arar was deported under our immigration laws.”

    …Arar challenged that assertion. “I don’t think they are being truthful about this,” he said….In his case, he said, a “special removal unit” transported him to Syria via Jordan on what he believes to have been a CIA plane…….Wizner is representing Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen who, in a case of mistaken identity, was kidnapped by the CIA and taken to a secret Afghan prison, where he said he was abused….The Arar and El-Masri cases show that “not every torture victim is a terrorist. Some of them are innocent men,” Wizner said.

    What immigration law is it Mr Arar violated by changing planes in the US? And why was he not sent to Canada? Without answers to those questions, Gonzales’s words aren’t worth the the paper they are spun on.

    You say we can’t know for sure and you don’t believe we would have meant for him to be tortured.

    http://web.amnesty.org/pages/stoptorture-050406-feature-eng
    USA: The secretive and illegal US programme of ‘rendition’

    Rice claims we get assurances from the countries involved they won’t torture the prisoners. Amnesty International says the fact we need to ask indicates we know the country involved tortures prisoners.

    Amnesty also notes International law prohibits sending people to countries where they are in danger of being tortured, international law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention without charge or trial, international law prohibits enforced disappearance. The US claims they are breaking no laws.

    The protestations of the US administration that they’re doing nothing illegal are belied by the absolute secrecy surrounding the programme. The US Secretary of State has said that, “where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.” If the practice of torture and ill-treatment in custody is so great that the USA must seek assurances that the receiving state will not behave as it normally does, then the risk is obviously too great to permit the transfer.

    http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR510512006
    More details: Below the radar: Secret flights to torture and ‘disappearance’

    Here’s the other evidence suggesting the intent was not as innocent as Gonzales
    would have us believe:
    1) What other difference besides how Arar would be treated is there between the
    choice of two countries the supposed immigration authorities decided between? As a dual citizen, were the US merely deporting him to Syria, they should have concluded Arar could just return to Canada on the next flight. There is no logic in Gonzales’s claim.
    2) We are clearly torturing other people detained under the same circumstances.
    3) Gonzales has made unambiguous statements that he has advised the Bush administration Gonzales believed certain forms of torture were legal under US law.
    4) The Bush government claimed no comment when the story broke about renditions being carried out all over Europe. Shortly after, a dozen prisoners that had been held in the secret prisons in Europe that Bush would not admit existed, were suddenly being transfered to Guantanamo for military tribunals. (And BTW, a human rights group has detailed records of at least 100 people missing which apppear to have been taken by the CIA from European countries.)

    Each detainee is given a hearing before a review board to determine whether they are justly detained, as per the G.C. Hundreds have been released as a result.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/policy/dod/d20040518gtmoreview.pdf
    military review board

    Doesn’t sound like anything close to a fair trial and the review board is all military people.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/policy/dod/d20050119csrt.pdf
    550 tribunals held, 327 determined to be enemy combatants, 3 found not combatants, so there must be 220 undecided or incomplete.

    According to another Canadian picked up in Afghanistan who agreed to go to Gitmo as a spy, (interviewed on Democracy Now, I didn’t track down the link) a lot more than 3 of the prisoners there had simply been turned in for the 5K reward and were not Taliban. The Canadian has since left Gitmo and gone public with his report. He said the military wouldn’t listen to him even though they asked him to be a spy there.

  136. skeptigirl

    John: It was sensitive intelligence. The enemy reads our newspapers, too.

    You aren’t explaining why if it was revealed in the news already, and especially years after the info was used, that Bush wouldn’t have made as much fuss over these successes as the FL terror wannabes and the English liquids experts.

    But, read on because I looked into your citation and found O’Reilly totally distorted Ross’s report. O’Reilly used the very common Fox and Bush/Rove tactic of arguing against a false position.

    John: And “torture” does work, as evidenced in Ross’ report.

    The blogs and forums posted volumes on this claim. But when I read the ABC news report, it really downplayed the success and highlighted the risks and drawbacks. That was odd considering the blogs and forum comments.

    http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1322866
    Nov. 18, 2005 — Harsh interrogation techniques authorized by top officials of the CIA have led to questionable confessions and the death of a detainee since the techniques were first authorized in mid-March 2002, ABC News has been told by former and current intelligence officers and supervisors.

    Read the news report first, then watch or re-watch the Fox interview.

    http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/BrianRoss/
    (Click on video Brian Ross on The O’Reilly Factor {near bottom of page}
    “Ross on O’Reilly”)

    Ross says the tactics were used on 14 top al Qaeda operatives and they “all broke”. O’Reilly tries to turn that into “they all gave up useful information. Ross clarifies that as a ‘no’ and says some of the information was false. Ross says the tactics are open to debate. O’Reilly presses for an answer that we got “some useful information.”Ross says yes.

    But this is where O’Reilly twists the truth. He claims “liberals say we NEVER get any useful information by torture”. That is not the argument at all. The evidence is we get VERY LITTLE and it is not enough to overcome the negative results.

    Go back and look at the tone of the ABC report. It certainly makes torture sound at least a very questionable practice.

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/forum/boards/viewtopic.asp?topicid=93139
    This is a Seattle PI article where Colin Powell was noted to say the negative impact was tremendous. And the person relaying the information says Powell had to have felt very strongly about that as he almost never critizes the administration.

    I was also appalled Ross mentioned we held KSM’s kids hostage and threatened to harm them to get information.

    But the most appalling thing of all was the video that follows the Ross/O’Reilly exchange. (Just keep watching.)

    ABC reporters went undercover and found Americans selling amonium nitrate in large quantities, no questions asked. If the reporters can find these sellers where is the FBI? Here is all this questionable torture to get information and we haven’t plugged a simple loophole that seems critical if there is a terrorist threat inside the US.

    And apparently a bill requiring background checks on people buying the stuff has been stopped by the American Farm Bureau lobby which apparently sees the regulation as too much of a hassel.

    John: I don’t consider discomfort and waterboarding to be torture….

    I found reports of at least 3 deaths indicating it is a lot more than “discomfort” that is being done to these people.

    John: You think (I gather) it’s better that actual terrorists be released to ensure that no innocents are dragged into the net. I think it’s better to make sure we’re not releasing any real terrorists (which we have done, unfortunately), even if that means some innocent Afghan farmers are held at Guantanamo. It’s a dirty war….I’m sure plenty of innocent German farmers were captured in WW2, and held for the duration…. We’re being better than them by not indiscriminately beheading everyone we capture….Mistakes are to be regretted, but too bad.

    Yes, I do believe in the same principle we use (or are supposed to anyway) in our criminal courts, a few guilty people getting off is better than a few innocent people being wrongly jailed. But, regardless of our differing values, you have not presented convincing evidence that the benefit of this practice outweighs the drawbacks. You presented evidence some information was obtained. I’ll take Ross’ sources’ word for it some of that information was useful. But the actual report talks about all sorts of negative impacts from the practice. You prevent one act of terrorism and 10 more terrorists sign up.

    We tolerate a lot of unnecessary death in our society.

    http://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/prevguid/m0023655/M0023655.asp
    38,317 killed by firearms in the USA in 1991

    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/283/17/2245
    A total of 16,676 children younger than 16 years who were passengers, pedestrians, or bicyclists were killed due to a motor vehicle crash from 1991 to
    1996…3310 of those children were killed as a result of drunk drivers.
    Drivers younger than the legal drinking age of 21 years who had been drinking alcohol accounted for 30.3% of alcohol-related passenger deaths among children.

    http://www.poseidon-tech.com/us/statistics.html
    # In 2000, there were 3,482 unintentional drownings in the United States, an average of nine people per day.

    Between Katrina and the Iraq war, there have been more deaths than on 9/11. There are many risks in our world and I am all for decreasing those risks as efficiently and as completely as possible. People don’t want to give up their firearms or their SUVs (using less gas) to make us safer. There’s no way it’s OK to expect someone else to give up their freedom, security, and well being for our safety.

    And as to being on the right track…

    From the Soviets, yes. Which is why “we created Bin Laden in Afghanistan” in
    order to help defeat them there, helped the Shah overthrow Iranian democracy, helped Pinochet take power in Chile, and supported the Contras. All hardnosed,
    realpolitic decisions to fight off the greater threat.

    This is the most incredible statement of all. If I hadn’t read the rest of your posts I’d think this was a Colbert joke. We created Bin Laden to stop the Soviets from gaining Afghanistan. It’s pretty obvious that was a bad choice in the long run now isn’t it?

    We helped the Shaw over throw the IRANIAN DEMOCRACY, the ELECTED government. In it’s place we installed a brutal dictator who spent a billion dollars (literally) just on his coronation party. The Shaw was hated by his countrymen. Why did we do this? To keep the oil resoruces in the hands of a few corporations, foreigners to the Iranians. It’s pretty obvious that was a bad choice in the long run now isn’t it?

    We helped Pinochet take power in Chile. Why did we do that? To keep the copper
    mining resources in the hands of a few corporations. It backfired and the mines were nationalized anyway. Pinochet was another hated brutal dictator who killed
    and imprisoned thousands. It’s pretty obvious that was a bad choice in the long run now isn’t it?

    We supported the Contras in Nicaragua. I have personal knowledge of this little nightmare we subjected poor Nicaraguan farmers and factory workers to. I went to Nicaragua when our friend Somoza, another one of histories’ most brutal dictators was still in power. He had to live in a cement bunker because he was so beloved. In fact, his people loved him so much they followed him to South America and blew him away with a bazooka.

    Having been in Central America during some of the worst of our foreign interventions, I’ll tell you what was really there. In the US, we had Reagan and his predecessors telling us we were supporting “Freedom Fighters” who were
    fighting off the evil communists. We were protecting the capitalist system of economics. The communists were trying to take over all the dominos. After all, we had Cuba as proof.

    What was actually going on was there were the very rich and the very poor. The
    very poor would have been happy with a few labor unions, fair wages, and the same things we want in this country, health care and education. But anyone organizing a labor union ended up disappearing in the night and turning up the next day as a beheaded body laying in the street. Yes, beheaded! That was a common little death squad practice those freedom fighting Contras learned at the School of the Americas.

    All of Central America has a capitalist economic system except Cuba. The reason
    why the revolutionary movements formed was because the majority of people lived in poverty, there was no middle class, and a minority of rich people controled all the wealth with paid mercenary armies to keep things that way.

    I understand the need to have corporations invest in infrastructure to develop a country’s resources. It doesn’t serve anyone’s best interest to then have those corporations lose all their assets to a revolutionary movement. But all decisions to support the most brutal dictators who could then maintain control over the country’s wealth by brutalizing and terrorizing the poor majority certainly seemed to me like poor choices over the long run.

    If we had spent half the money we spent on military aid to those countries on health care and education for their citizens and if we prevented dictators and big business owners from murdering labor union organizers, if we had really promoted democracy instead of only capitalism, ….. but we didn’t.

    And here we are. Some conservatives argue my description above means I blame America for today’s terrorists. I just stated what happened in the above countries. Regardless of what contribution those actions added to the way the world has developed, you’d think we could have at least learned from those mistakes. And we almost had.

    Then in came all the same people who were in Nixon’s and Reagan’s administrations. They brought along their old failed policies and the fantasy those policies would remake the Middle East, the same way they tried to remake the world before. America goes in, our corporations build the infrastructure, we make government alliances regardless of the way that government rules its people. Lots of powerful people make lots more money.

    It was a fantasy. And the world pays dearly for it.

    I believe as long as Americans get the real facts, the real story, they will see to it that their representatives do the right thing.

    If the government is successful keeping the returning coffins from view, in claiming a report that says the Iraq war is making more terrorists not less, really means the government is on the right track, that there is no better way to win in Iraq, as long as the O’Reilly’s and other Fox comentators twist stories to mean something different than was originally written then too many Americans will not have the real facts.

    I found all sorts of reports on the Net of actual cases of this special rendition, of severe torture by the US, of mistakenly taking innocent people, of the mess from acting on the wrong information, and of the European Union meeting to discuss the US violating her laws and soverignty. I also saw page after page of people excitedly discussing their belief of the distorted O’Reilly picture overstating the success of torture.

    I hope people reading this take a little more time looking into this action our government is taking. And look with a more skeptical view of people who would talk about torture as if it was merely “uncomfortable”, that everyone at Gitmo was picked up on battlefields, or, that the only options in Iraq are to stay or leave. Those aren’t the only options. We can start by canceling one of Brenner’s first laws he put in place. He made labor unions illegal. And the next step is to start treating all the prisoners with dignity. It will be harder now, given the mess. But legalizing torture and taking away people’s right to habeas corpus most certainly is the wrong thing to do.

  137. skeptigirl

    I’m sorry Frank for making light of your beliefs. It was really just meant to say I got your intent which you slipped in there.

    OTOH, the idea one needn’t worry about anything because it is all God’s will isn’t the same view all Christians hold. Some believe the actions we take in this world matter to God. Some believe God expects people to act in the best interests of others and of the planet.

  138. Stuart

    There are several comments here to the effect that the bill in question is simply a matter of politics, and that we should respect the people who stand for it, and not resort to name-calling, etc.

    People, this is not just a political decision in the same way that more tax vs. less taxes is a political decision. There are NOT good points to be made on both sides of the argument. And it is definitely NOT something that should only be discussed on official, certified, licenced Politics blogs.

    This law is morally WRONG, plain and simple.

    The last time I heard people saying “It’s just politics” when it was really a moral issue, they were talking about a quaint policy of my country. The policy was Apartheid.

  139. Frank

    skeptigirl

    Thank you for your post. I absolutely believe that God holds us responsible for actions we take and that we are to act in the best interests of others and of the planet.

    I prefer not to comment on the substance of the debate regarding this bill in this forum, I was responding to what I saw as an attack on by beliefs by a previous poster.

    Thanks again, take it easy

  140. Stuart

    Sigh. I just made (what I thought was) a very clever retort to those people whining about the addition of politics to the blog, only to have it swallowed by the spam filter.

    My point was: This is Phil’s blog. You’re getting it free-of-charge. You don’t have ANY say over what he puts in it. So just P off and don’t waste bandwidth whining about it first.

    And as (I think) SkepticGirl already said, most of you are probably hypocrites, anyway.

  141. For those still following this thread, there’s an interesting column on a (really disturbing) historical parallel here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/30/opinion/30harris.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    The short version: the U.S. is heading down a path pioneered by the Romans in 68 BC, and it didn’t turn out too well for them…

    Lorne

  142. Salamander

    John said >>> Salamander – As well as misquoting him, as usual.

    I don’t undertand this comment. Misquoting who? As usual? I never posted here before. What? Huh?

  143. Salamander

    >>>The short version: the U.S. is heading down a path pioneered by the
    >>>Romans in 68 BC, and it didn’t turn out too well for them…

    The Romans didn’t have one man one vote and term limits, though. So there’s that, at least.

    Just remember to vote this fall, and if you ever get a chance to vote out gerrymandering, do so. The folks in California passed up on that chance last election for reasons incomprehensible. Maybe the replacement system wasn’t ideal, but, for pity’s sake it couldn’t be worse than what’s there now (legislators can basically carve out their own districts). For all practical purposes, the vote was taken away from citizens in California.

  144. And as (I think) SkepticGirl already said, most of you are probably hypocrites, anyway.

    Actually, I think I’m the one you’re thinking of there, where I said “I’d also like to ask you this: Would you be complaining if his viewpoint matched your own? If the answer is no, then I’ll ask you to leave, check your hypocrisy at the door, and return so we can have a civilized discussion.”

    Though to be fair, I can see where you’d make that mistake in this thread. The vast majority of reasoned arguments here have come from Skeptigirl, so guessing her is a safe bet in any case. She’s been doing so well that all I’ve been able to contribute are a few random things. Kudos to you, Skeptigirl.

    Speaking of random things, let’s describe a few aspects of witchcraft trials, and see if they sound familiar (most taken from Wikipedia). Things that could be used to convict someone of witchcraft:

    -Denouncement by another witch. This was common, since the accused could often avoid execution by naming accomplices.
    -Relationship with other convicted witch/witches.
    -Possession of elements necessary for the practice of black magic.

    Other notes on witch trials:

    -Confessions had to be tortured out of the victims.
    -Victims were often not told the specific crimes they were accused of, so they were forced to guess if they wished to confess to get out of torture.
    -If victims confessed under torture, they then had to swear that their confession was valid when they weren’t being tortured. If they went back on their confession, they were tortured again.
    -Victims were never allowed legal representation.
    -No appeals were allowed.

    With a few word modifications, a lot of that sounds eerily similar to what’s happening to accused terrorists today.

  145. John

    Salamander – Didn’t mean you, meant the guy who quoted Franklin. The real quote is: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    Skeptigirl – Sorry, I don’t have the time to respond in the detail your well argued posts deserve. I’ve enjoyed the exchange. But I have a fence to build, and we’re really busy at work, so I’ll concede the argument. And even vote Democratic in November.

    Just kidding!

  146. skeptigirl

    I posted a thank you to Infophile for clarifying that it wasn’t I who said anything about hypocrites and for the compliments.

    But I added a certain reference (no link) to an upcoming PBS special by Bill Moyers that was related to the former comment and I guess the spam filter or Phil deleted the post. We’ll see if this is muted enough to get through.

  147. Salamander

    John: OK. I thought that might be it.

    I agree with the substance of the quote, and admire the Founding Fathers to no end, but they did live in a much, well, not *simpler* time (forging a nation is never simple), but a less advanced era. We have threats to liberty today that they probably could not have even imagined. A box that one man can carry that can destroy a city? They’d accuse you of being delusional. :) Or maybe a witch, and they’d build a bridge out of you. :D

    For the record, I don’t support the bill that started this hub bub, but I have to admit I sympathize with the feelings that led to it.

  148. I didn’t delete anything. Probably a filter huccup. Sorry.

  149. skeptigirl

    Well, in that case, the reference was to a Bill Moyers special in 3 parts starting this Wed., I believe. There’s a preview on Democracy Now’s website including an interview with Moyers about it.

    I wonder if the spam filter takes out certain command verbs suggesting people do things? I left them out of this post.

  150. skeptigirl

    More trouble posting so here is half of my post:

    In Phil’s follow up blog entry (01/03/06), Xennady Says: …Abraham Lincoln also suspended habeas.He then imprisoned thousands without trial or charges,closed newpapers,defied the supreme court,sent troops to diperse the Maryland legislature so it could not vote to secede from the union,imposed an income tax-which much later was discovered to be unconstitutiona…
    I respectfully note that others including myself and many judges have a different opinion about the constutionality of this measure and its ultimate effects.Now since you are apparantly a lawyer as well as an astronomer I would appreciate reading your skeptical assessment of the constutionality of campus speech codes,government property seizures for private purposes,and of course the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law and its considerable restriction of free speech everywhere.As a conservative Republican I believe these are far more serious threats to our Constitutional liberties than a law passed by congress,signed by the president, all in response to a 5-4 supreme court decision and intended to bring the law into compliance with that decision.

    John followed with: Xennady – You forgot 2 things:…
    2) Suspending Habeas Corpus is in the Constitution!

    Not wanting to continue arguing this subject under that blog entry as it would be easy to do, I’ll reply here and make a note to that effect there.

    I didn’t see the relevance of John’s first “thing” so I left it out.

    Xennady claimed expertise in the legal issues and implied only lawyers could be knowledgeable in this matter, (sarcasm that the BA was now a lawyer and challenging the BA to give a knowledgeable opinion on a number of Constitutional questions). John again pointed out some ‘fact’ without taking the time to investigate the full implication or ramification of that bit of information.

    While I am not a lawyer, I do know how to find information and how to evaluate its importance and validity. It seems to me from evaluating the following information pertaining to the above comments that the interpretation John and Xennady have drawn are not the interpretation the Supreme Court drew after a case involving Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus when arresting a US citizen during the Civil War. While there may be some cases when suspending the right is Constitutional, it is under very narrow circumstances and with a number of restrictions.

    If that were not the case then the wording, “invasion of the public safety may require it,” would imply the President could invoke this clause for all sorts of public safety issues. Arsonists, for example, could certainly be argued to “invade public safety”.

    I also draw your attention to bolded text in the Supreme Court ruling in Lincoln’s case below. (Bolding is mine)

    I’ll let the readers decide for themselves if the recent bill passed by this legislature still seems Constitutional. The links are there for those wishing to read the entire comments and documents.

    http://www.crf-usa.org/terror/Lincoln.htm
    The actual right of habeas corpus is not stated anywhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The authors of these documents apparently believed that habeas corpus was such a fundamental liberty that it needed no further guarantee in writing. The only mention of the writ of habeas corpus in the Constitution relates to when it can be taken away from judges. In a section limiting the powers of Congress (Art. I, Sec. 9), the Constitution states: “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in causes of rebellion or invasion of the public safety may require it.”

    The U.S. Supreme Court did not decide a case concerning Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of liberty until after the Civil War.

    Find out what the Supreme Court decided in Ex Parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866). IN the next post.

  151. skeptigirl

    Continued from above

    http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0071_0002_ZS.html

    “7. Military commissions organized during the late civil war, in a State not invaded and not engaged in rebellion, in which the Federal courts were open, and in the proper and unobstructed exercise of their judicial functions, had no jurisdiction to try, convict, or sentence for any criminal offence, a citizen who was neither a resident of a rebellious State nor a prisoner of war, nor a person in the military or naval service. And Congress could not invest them with any such power.

    8. The guaranty of trial by jury contained in the Constitution was intended for a state of war, as well as a state of peace, and is equally binding upon rulers and people at all times and under all circumstances.

    9. The Federal authority having been unopposed in the State of Indiana, and the Federal courts open for the trial of offences and the redress of grievances, the usages of war could not, under the Constitution, afford any sanction for the trial there of a citizen in civil life not connected with the military or naval service, by a military tribunal, for any offence whatever.

    10. Cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia in time of war or public danger, are excepted from the necessity of presentment or indictment by a grand jury, and the right of trial by jury in such cases is subject to the same exception. [p4]

    11. Neither the President nor Congress nor the Judiciary can disturb any one of the safeguards of civil liberty incorporated into the Constitution except so far as the right is given to suspend in certain cases the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

    12. A citizen not connected with the military service and a resident in a State where the courts are open and in the proper exercise or their jurisdiction cannot, even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, be tried, convicted, or sentenced otherwise than by the ordinary courts of law.

    13. Suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus does not suspend the writ itself. The writ issues as a matter of course, and, on its return, the court decides whether the applicant is denied the right of proceeding any further.

    14. A person who is a resident of a loyal State, where he was arrested, who was never resident in any State engaged in rebellion, nor connected with the military or naval service, cannot be regarded as a prisoner of war.

    Continued in next post (hopefully)

  152. skeptigirl

    Just like before there is something hidden in the post that is blocking it. So I took out a bit more of the quoted parts from the link.

    …Two following sections limited the authority in certain respects….

    The second section required that lists of all persons, being citizens of States in which the administration of the laws had continued unimpaired in the Federal courts, who were then held, or might thereafter be held, as prisoners of the United States, under the authority of the President, otherwise than as prisoners of war, should be furnished by the Secretary of State and Secretary of War to the judges of the Circuit and District Courts. These lists were to contain the names of all persons, residing within their respective jurisdictions, charged with violation of national law….Every officer of the United States having custody of such prisoners was required to obey and execute the judge’s order, under penalty, for refusal or delay, of fine and imprisonment.

    The third section enacts, in case lists of persons other than prisoners of war then held in confinement or thereafter arrested, should not be furnished within twenty days after the passage of the act, or, in cases of subsequent arrest, within twenty days after the time of arrest, that any citizen, after the termination of a session of the grand jury without indictment or presentment, might, by petition alleging the facts and verified by oath, obtain the judge’s order of discharge in favor of any person so imprisoned, on the terms and conditions prescribed in the second section.”

    I think it is especially noteworthy that in order to have one’s writ of Habeas Corpus suspended, one had to have been in one of the states that seceded or one had to be actually in the military to have military law apply to you. If not, then citizens were still under civilian court jurisdiction.

    Prisoners of war are excepted. I assume a prisoner of war is arrested while either carrying out acts of war or planning to. That might apply to some of the terrorists but it didn’t apply to the citizen arrested here on whatever he was suspected of. This is the crux of the issue, labeling such a broad swath of people as enemy combatants goes beyond what the Constitution allows.

    As to arresting non-citizens, those in the country legally would certainly seem to be under the same civilian court jurisdiction. Except for those with Diplomatic status, legal aliens in the US are subject to civilian court jurisdiction.

    For anyone arrested in another country, what legal right does the US have violating the sovereignty of another country?

    For those picked up in Afghanistan or Iraq, the US never officially declared war on those countries. That leaves a lot of gray in the law and the Constitution. For an argument against this bill in these cases, I go back to the premise, the action of denying basic human rights sanctioned in this bill makes terrorism expand at a far greater rate than the denial of those rights decreases the risks.

  153. Irishman

    skeptigirl, color me impressed.

    I want to try to summarize my thoughts rather than indivually quote and respond to things. As much as I can.

    Extremist language on both sides of this debate is counterproductive. All it does is make you look like a raving lunatic.

    Insults from both sides of the debate are not only counterproductuve, but rude, annoying, and disruptive. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if all you can do is call someone an asshat or a moonbat, GO AWAY! You don’t have to agree. You can think of the others how ever you want. You can call ideas and positions any number of descriptive terms to show your contempt for them. But keep the contempt aimed at the ideas. PLEASE. Nastiness is not corrected by more nastiness. Hate breeds hate. Insults only deepen people in their entrenched ideas, breed contempt for the insulter, and detract from whatever argument you are trying to make.

    I recognize that the issues are murky when trying to evaluate how to proceed to make us safer, how to address terrorism and terrorists, how to protect information and methods used to allow us to capture or prevent more terrorists. I don’t think anyone here is advocating the position that we should just let the terrorists run free, or that they aren’t truly a danger to our population, society, and the very essence of goodness.

    There does seem to be a fundamental difference in attitudes upon one point, the relative value of Principles vs. Practicality. One side appears to feel that Practicality in defence of the nation and the populace is most important. How do we protect ourselves? What can we do to stop them, find out more about them, prevent them from hurting and killing us? Their rights don’t matter, because they don’t care about our rights. The other side feels that Principles do matter, that the Principles they are defending are the key principles that make us better in the first place. Without those principles, our society is no better morally than the one the terrorists would replace is with.

    It is right to fear the terrorists – they are hate-filled, malicious, immoral thugs perpetrating indescriminate violence. But in our efforts to stop them, we must take care that our methods do not mirror theirs, or we will find that the hate-filled, malicious, immoral thugs perpetrating indescriminate violence are us.

    Here’s what stands out to me. President Bush has very black and white views. He is ready and eager to divide the world up on moral grounds. He quickly assigns the likes of Saddam Hussein, Il Kim Jong, Iran, etc as “the Axis of Evil” – there it is in black and white. They are Evil and we are Good. Yet what is the basis for the determination of Evil vs Good? Is it based upon a moral footing of behavior, or is it merely us vs them? Is it based upon his righteous sense of being God’s chosen, or is it rooted in his Christian sense of Right and Wrong? I would argue that his actions speak very loud. Bush is adamantly advocating and sanctioning torture. I find it very hypocritical for Bush to claim the moral high ground while demanding that he have the authority to sanction brutal, abusive tactics to fulfill his goals. And I’m not talking just about this latest set of policies, where the most extreme thing is “water boarding” (as if that is benign). Bush and Rumsfeld have advocated and employed torture at Guantanamo. The activities at Abu Graib that they blamed on a few late shift soldiers getting out of hand? Those were first employed at Gitmo. It’s documented. There have been deaths from the treatments at Gitmo.

    It seems to me that Bush is failing in one key principle that Christians advocate. You’ve all heard the slogan: What Would Jesus Do? I ask you Christians to consider if Jesus would sanction water boarding, or any other form of abuse? (Yes, this is a directed argument. It doesn’t apply to you non-Christians. But since the President is an averred Christian and many of the vocal supporters for the President’s policy are Christians, I think it relevant to ask them to consider their own convictions.)

  154. John

    Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in…

    Regarding the Milligan decision, from
    http://www.crf-usa.org/terror/military_tribunals.htm

    it’s hardly as clear cut a matter of settled law as you’re making it out to be. On Ex Parte Quirin:

    “Military tribunals were again used during the Second World War. In 1942, a U-boat landed eight German soldiers on Long Island, New York, under the cover of darkness. Dressed as civilians, their mission was to sabotage U.S. defense factories. The operation failed when two of the men defected and informed authorities. The FBI arrested the saboteurs and turned them over to the U.S. military for trial. Shortly after the arrest, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the use of military tribunals for trying those who entered the country to commit sabotage.

    Within one month of capture, the eight Germans were tried by a military tribunal of army officers. The prosecution team consisted of 10 military lawyers. A single military lawyer, Colonel Kenneth Royall, represented the defendants. The tribunal found all eight guilty. Six were sentenced to death by electrocution, and the two defectors were sentenced to prison terms.

    The defendants appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that under the Milligan decision, they should have been tried in a U.S. civilian criminal court. Meeting in a special summer session, the court heard arguments and issued a unanimous opinion. Writing for the court in Ex Parte Quirin, Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone denied the appeal. The court noted that Congress had authorized the use of military tribunals for offenses against the law of war. (The law of war is based on international treaties and, among other things, it forbids a country’s military personnel from operating in another country out of uniform.) The court went on to distinguish the Milligan case. It ruled that the saboteurs were belligerents (enemy soldiers at war), who because they had entered the country out of uniform to conduct sabotage, had violated the law of war. They therefore were not entitled to the status of prisoners of war. Nor were they entitled to the protections under the Milligan case, which only applied to non-belligerents not associated with the enemy. This was true even for one German saboteur who claimed U.S. citizenship. “Citizenship in the United States of an enemy belligerent,” wrote the court, “does not relieve him from the consequences of a belligerency which is unlawful because it is a violation of the law of war.” ”

    Unanimously. This decision is obviously more recent (1942), and seems to me more applicable, becuase instead of having US citizens agitating on behalf of the Confederacy, the current situation is closer to un-uniformed enemy saboteurs infiltrating our country.

    Now in the Hamdan decision, the court ruled that Bush did not have the legislative authority to try these guys in a military tribunal. Which this legislation reverses. There was also concern that the makeup of the tribunals violated the GCs and the UCMJ. I’ll have to research that more when I get the time, I’m not sure how the legislation addresses those issues.

    As to the O’Reilly report – how can O’Reilly misrepresent Ross’ story when Ross was there talking to him? That story you linked to was almost a year old. It seems Ross has had more info from his CIA contacts since then, and has apparently come to a different conclusion.

  155. skeptigirl

    In 1942, a U-boat landed eight German soldiers on Long Island, New York, under the cover of darkness.

    The case I presented excepted the party because he was not military and not in a state that had seceded. These guys were soldiers in a time of declared war.

    I said a couple of times now, actually capture someone on a battlefield, fine, call them an enemy combatant. Pick up some poor sap changing planes in a US airport or abducted in Macedonia and you have a different picture. The legislation by many people’s opinion is unconstitutional. But in the meantime, Bush gets to wkeep on using tactics which violate the human rights of a variety of people.

    If you can’t see the distinction between rounding up people all over the world on the flimsiest of charges and capturing German infiltrators during a declared war with Germany then you have a problem.

    Even with two Bush appointees on the Supreme Court Bush was ruled out of line. And while the court said maybe you could so something if the legislature passes specific law, that is no guarantee this law is Constitutional.

    I know people hear what they want to hear but how you could ignore the key thing I said about O’Reilly’s distortion is still curious.

    Can I be more clear? I’ll try.

    Ross said the torture techniques were [b]used on 14 top Al Qaeda operatives and “they all broke”.[/b]
    O’Reilly repeated the torture techniques were used on 14 top Al Qaeda operatives [b]and they all gave up useful information.”[/b]

    What is difference in those sentences? All 14 did not give up real information. Ross said some gave up bad information that led to wasted goose chases.

    O’Reilly said the liberals say torture [b]NEVER[/b] works. This proved it does.
    That’s a lie. Liberals do not say torture NEVER works. We say it yields more bad than good. O’Reilly sets up a straw man argument and then claims victory over it.

    That is a common propaganda technique. O’Reilly distorted Ross’s version. If you can’t see it, look again.

  156. skeptigirl

    Ack, used wrong code. Oh well.

  157. John

    Ack, used wrong code. Oh well.

    Actually, you reminded me to use them. It would be nice if you could preview or edit, though. We’ll see how this works…

    I said a couple of times now, actually capture someone on a battlefield, fine, call them an enemy combatant. Pick up some poor sap changing planes in a US airport or abducted in Macedonia and you have a different picture. The legislation by many people’s opinion is unconstitutional. But in the meantime, Bush gets to wkeep on using tactics which violate the human rights of a variety of people.

    Okay, fair point. But KSM, Ramzi bin Al-Shibh, Abu Zubaydah weren’t captured on battlefields. They were caught in Pakistan and then turned over to the US. Should they be tried as criminals?

    If you can’t see the distinction between rounding up people all over the world on the flimsiest of charges and capturing German infiltrators during a declared war with Germany then you have a problem.

    I see the distinction (I still have problems). But these guys, including one who claimed US citizenship, tried the Milligan defense. Which I thought was the point of your posts citing the decision. Their argument was shot down, and they fried. Which means current infiltrators (terrorists) should get the same treatment. Short of frying them, I mean. And Quirin holds that the military commissions apply regardless of the citizenship status of the combatant, if Congress has so authorized.

    As for rounding up people all over the world, I agree that is a gray area. I don’t have a problem with it, but your mileage may vary.

    Re: O’Reilly: Sorry, I just kind of lost track of that argument, but I get it now. And you’re grasping at straws. From an unofficial transcript I found here:
    http://mensnewsdaily.com/2006/09/22/oreilly-factor-coerced-interrogations/
    (I have no idea what the heck “mens news daily” is, so don’t hold that against me! It seems accurate, though.) What I think are the most relevant passages:

    O: So in all 14 cases, coerced interrogation methods being debated in the SEnate right now were used and in all 14 cases according to your report they gave it up. Now, the opposition — you just heard it — Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, they say it’s garbage. They told them what they wanted to hear, it wasn’t truthful. Is that true?

    R: That has happened in some cases, where the material that’s been given has not been accurate, has been essentially to stop the torture, in the case of KSM, the information was very valuable, particularly names and addresses of people who were involved with Al Qaeda in this country and in Europe, and one particular plot that would involve an airline attack on the tallest building in Los Angeles known as the library tower.

    O: In fact, you say in your report that more than a dozen plots — a dozen Al Qaeda plots to kill people were stopped because of the information they got from coerced interrogation.

    R: That’s what we’re told by our sources.

    O: Do you believe that?

    R: I do believe that.

    You think the part I highlighted is outweighed by “they gave it up” and “Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, they say it’s garbage?” You’re dismissing this report with the laughable claim that it’s propaganda (you mischaracterized what O’Reilly said). You can say that “torture” gives bad intel and does more harm than good, but breaking up those plots is a pretty powerful counterpoint.

  158. John

    Dammit, I meant to highlight these sections, too:

    O: In fact, you say in your report that more than a dozen plots — a dozen Al Qaeda plots to kill people were stopped because of the information they got from coerced interrogation.

    R: That’s what we’re told by our sources.

    O: Do you believe that?

    R: I do believe that.

  159. Irishman

    Actually, I think the emphasis is on this part:
    R: That has happened in some cases, where the material that’s been given has not been accurate, has been essentially to stop the torture,

    Oops, he meant “stop the mild discomfort”.

  160. skeptigirl

    I appreciate that you are actually reading my posts, John, and not giving a knee jerk reply. I have read yours and looked at the links. Our unresolved difference in opinion seems to come down to the benefits and risks. To look at the claim by the Bush folks of success, whether Ross’s news account supports that or merely supports that Ross believes there were successes (remember, there have been public disclosures that Bush and company have purposefully manipulated the news media), but nevertheless, this approach of just looking at the successes fails to take into account the entire picture.

    I encourage everyone to take the time to more thoroughly investigate such an important matter. To decide this policy is right after merely reading a few news reports and blogs about the success of the US’s use of torture doesn’t recognize how significant having one’s government legalize torture really is.

    There are three major things to consider:
    1) What are the benefits of using torture?
    2) What are the trade offs?
    3) How likely are the soldiers and CIA operatives going to follow the rules? Because you cannot evaluate a program by looking at the planning alone, you have to see what happens in practice.

    Here are a couple discussions by those with expertise or thorough investigation of this issues.

    http://dir.salon.com/story/opinion/feature/2004/06/18/torture_1/index.html
    Part one: Torture’s dark allure; It gives its practitioners a drug-like rush. But it leaves a legacy of destruction that takes generations to undo.

    http://dir.salon.com/story/opinion/feature/2004/06/21/torture_algiers/index.html
    Part 2 Does torture work? ;The French military’s use of torture in Algeria is often cited as a success story. But the real story is more complex.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/torture/justify/
    Is Torture Ever Justified, Frontline Roundtable Discussion

    With that background, the followiong opinion piece presents what I think is the most profound drawback in using torture. It is why so many of us have a gut reaction that we can’t even believe we need to have a debate on using torture. As a moral human being, torture is unacceptable.

    But more than just a personal conviction, it has been the official US position as long as I’ve been alive. Not that the US never engaged in torture, because during the civil rights movement many people in the country in official positions like police officers certainly did. And there have always been individual cases of police abuse that amounted to state torture. But it has never been something this country officially condoned.

    http://vlal.bol.ucla.edu/Vinay/Torture.pdf#search=%22success%20of%20torture%22
    Torture: An American Success Story; now that torture has been condoned by people in the highest positions in the US, one can be certain that many nations will feel encouraged to ignore whatever little constraints they may have had.

    Before drawing your conclusion, take a look at the following articles which provide a glimpse of what this policy ends up being in practice beyond the abduction and torture of innocent people.

    http://www.rense.com/general69/fail.htm
    Fear Of Failure Drives Torture Train; Terrell E. Arnold; retired Career Foreign Service Officer who served in senior diplomatic posts abroad, including Economic/Commercial Counselor in Manila and Consul General in Sao Paulo. In Washington he served as Deputy Director of the Office of Counterterrorism and as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National War College. He is author, co-author and editor of five books, including a collection of essays titled _A World Less Safe

    http://hrw.org/reports/2005/us0905/
    Human Right Watch, Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division

    http://www.salon.com/news/abu_ghraib/2006/03/14/introduction/
    The Abu Ghraib files; 279 photographs and 19 videos from the Army’s internal investigation record a harrowing three months of detainee abuse inside the notorious prison — and make clear that many of those responsible have yet to be held accountable.

    http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060227fa_fact
    How an internal effort to ban the abuse and torture of detainees was thwarted.
    by JANE MAYER, The New yorker

    And finally, here’s a report which calls into question, has the torture resulted in success or merely lies about successes. This is the point I was making before. If as many plots were thwarted as claimed, why hasn’t Bush plastered those facts all over the place the same way they plastered the FL terrorist wannabes and the plot to mix liquids on planes?

    You (or someone) in this blog mentioned the need for secrecy, but that is long past and not a credible reason this long after the fact. If they had kept the FL case secret, the claim would be more credible. And in the British case, there were reports the Brits were annoyed because they weren’t ready to reveal the plot but Bush wanted it public for his political advantage.

    http://www.martinirepublic.com/item/bush-speech-brags-of-success-in-torture-of-insane-man/

    It’s not like this administration has established a reputation for honesty.

  161. Damien Evans

    John, thanks for correcting my quote, but am i right in saying that it was ben franklin who said it?

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