clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

FIGHT TERROR WITHOUT SECRET TRIALS

The Washington Post is to be congratulated and thanked for blowing the whistle this week on an incredibly stupid and dangerous part of the administration's anti-crime bill.

Likewise, the White House is to be commended for withdrawing the provision right after its horrifying details were exposed. Even so, the provision never should have gotten as far as it did.The provision would have let the government hold secret trials leading to the deportation of non-citizens suspected of engaging in terrorist activity.

No more than a moment's reflection should have been needed to discern that secret trials would be a standing invitation to rank injustice and would set a precedent that could be used to imperil the liberties of Americans themselves as well as those of non-citizens.

But this part of the bill evidently never received even hasty consideration, at least not in Congress. No hearings were held on the provision and there was not even a committee report evaluating this part of the bill.

The list of outrages goes on.

The provision defined "terrorist activity" so broadly as to include raising money for or urging others to join "terrorist organizations," a term the measure did not define at all.

The Justice Department would have been enabled to go to a secret court for permission to hold a special deportation proceeding that could be conducted without notice or any opportunity to attend or be represented or learn of the evidence. As soon as the petition was filed, the accused could have been arrested. Though appeals would have been allowed, these proceedings would also have been secret.

Any similarity between this plan and due process of law is purely coincidental - or, actually, non-existent.

Admittedly, fighting terrorism is extremely difficult. But if this fight can't be waged without sacrificing traditional American standards of justice, then the country will have paid too high a price and the terrorists will in effect have won.

Fortunately, sanity finally prevailed. But the brief existence of the plan for secret trials makes one wonder how many other horrors might be hiding in the crime bill.