Monday, April 18, 2005

...with liberty and justice for all.

In the latest installment of the Fox serial: 24, art eerily imitated life. Essentially, terrorists have secured a nuclear warhead and the codes needed to detonate it. As you might expect, the full attention and resources of D.O.D. have been committed to the task of preventing a possible attack on American soil. Taking advantage of a misstep of one the terrorist, Federal agents apprehend a US citizen that happens to be a [former] Marine.

To thwart the authorities, the terrorist mastermind alerts “Amnesty Global” that the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) may be inclined to torture the man in their custody in order to extract information. An attorney arrives with a warrant and a Federal Marshall escort. The AG lawyer insisted upon due process, as the suspect was neither formally charged nor had any prior arrests. The information known at the time is technically circumstantial. We know that the suspect has aided the terrorists tangentially, but the extent of his complicity is unclear. The CTU agents implore the President to override the Court order mandating that the subject's rights will not be violated, by way of extreme interrogation.

This sounds quite a bit like the situation we have with the detainees in Guantanamo Bay. I have to say that this is not an easily resolved issue. It may well be tempting to relax due process in the interest of security. I can imagine that the presumption of innocence could be viewed as a luxury for one suspected of mass murder or abetting those with murderous intent. Oh yeah, there's that whole rule of law thing.

When considering such a dilemma, I’m awed by the Founders' wisdom. The concept of an equal application of the law is invaluable. This becomes vividly clear when the “rogue” citizen suspect in the interrogation chair is you. Are you still a proponent of the cessation of habeas corpus and the presumption of innocence? The brillience of the Constitution is that it demands that the Government err on the side of liberty. The acquittal of the guilty is far less offensive than the unjust conviction of an innocent…especially if the innocent one is me.