The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, October 22, 2007

While you were out

(Quick 2nd update: Mukasey's son is also proving what a stand-up guy he is by helping Giuliani misrepresent himself.)

I haven't put much effort into following the Mukasey confirmation hearing, and that makes me due for a mea culpa. But either in spite of or because of the deluge of incompetence and evil we see from the 21st century GOP, it's easy to forget that even a relatively non-controversial White House nominee for anything would have been considered completely unacceptable to either party just a few decades ago.

Andrew Sullivan, whose tone suggests the weariness I suspect millions of us feel, provides a reminder of why we have to keep paying attention. And fighting.

Matt [Kleiman] calls [Mukasey] "completely unacceptable." Having read the testimony, I'm afraid I have to abandon my early hopes and agree. An attorney general who believes a president has a permanent right to ignore the rule of law because peacetime is now wartime for ever, is an attorney general defending the rule of one man over the rule of law. If I were a Senator, (heh, indeed) I'd vote no. This is the faultline of our time. If we are redefining war as a permanent state of being, and redefining presidential authority to give him/her extra-legal and extra-constitutional power to what s/he wants anywhere in the world, including the United States and to its citizenry, then American liberty is in extreme peril. To approve an attorney general who does not dissent from this position is a terrible precedent.

Don't people see that this is what Cheney is doing? He is setting precedent after precedent for totalist, secret executive power. And with each precedent for unchecked, uncontrollable executive power - including the power to detain and torture within the United States - the America we have known is being surrendered. This is the other war - a constitutional war at home against American liberty and the Constitution - as dangerous in a different way as Islamism. One attacks our freedom from the outside; the other hollows out our freedom from within. The fight against both is the calling of the time.

UPDATE: Incredibly, I just came upon a post that looks as though it could've been written specifically to support Sullivan's case. A must-read.

According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy's life is worth garbage at that point, but ... well, that's why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

So Higazy "confesses" and he's processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back. This is like something out of the movies. The radio belonged to the pilot, not Higazy, and Higazy was free to go, the victim of horrible timing. Higazi was innocent! He next sued the hotel and the FBI agent for coercing his confession. The bottom line in the Court of Appeals: Higazy has a case and may recover damages for this injustice.

As I read the opinion I realized it was a 44 page epic, too long for me to print out. I blogged about the opinion while I read it online and then posted the blog as I ate lunch. Then something strange happened: a few minutes after I posted the blog, the opinion vanished from the Court of Appeals website! I had never seen this before, and what made all the more strange was that it involved a coerced confession over 9/11.

That's only the beginning of the story, but it's a chilling account of why torture, the 'unitary executive' theory, government secrecy, and the erosion of our civil rights have really brought America to a perilous crossroads.