Tuesday, December 24, 2002

The Village Voice: Nat Hentoff: Crossing Swords With General Ashcroft

There are already two American citizens, Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi, held as "enemy combatants"—incommunicado, without charges, without access to their lawyers, in military brigs on American soil. Charles Lane reports that Solicitor General Theodore Olson—a key administration strategist in creating this parallel legal system—has argued in a recent legal brief "that the detentions of people such as Hamdi or Padilla" do not require that "the executive branch spell out its criteria for determining who qualifies as an enemy combatant." The president decides who loses his or her constitutional rights. Trust in him. He is the parallel law.

"Experience hath shewn," said Thomas Jefferson, "that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."

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