That is being discussed now, and I’m more than a little stunned. I keep thinking back to a conversation that I had with a college professor who was trying to mock my positions on crime and punishment (which were, in my sophomore year, well to the right of where they are now). I stated that there are some crimes that simply warrant execution.
He responded by asking, “Well, then, aren’t there offenses that warrant death without trial? Shouldn’t we just lynch ‘em?”
I answered, “Well, maybe. But we don’t punish people until they’ve been tried. So, since we honor the rule of law, we simply can’t do that before they’ve been convicted and sentenced. So, while the offender might deserve a punishment like that, we don’t know it legally until after the trial. No one is talking about skipping the trial.”
Flash-forward nearly twenty years, and that’s exactly what we’re talking about.
The idea that we would arrest people without reading them their Miranda rights means that we’re making a determination of guilt before the trial. Before the accused has had an opportunity to defend him/herself.
We simply don’t do that in this country. That’s what happens in Latin American banana republics, Middle East dictatorships, and the like. This is the United States, in which people accused of crimes — even really bad crimes — are presumed innocent.
The idea that anyone takes this kind of thing seriously scares me more than almost anything else in politics today. If the government has the power to declare a person to be a terrorist and then hold said person indefinitely on the suspicion thereof, then that power is just asking for abuse.
What makes a terrorist, after all?
Trying to blow up a car in Times Square? Certainly.
What about bringing a loaded gun to a Presidential town hall meeting?
What about holding up a sign at a tea party that is interpreted as calling for the overthrow of the government?
This is the United States. Accused criminals are allowed to defend themselves and they have the opportunity to do it fairly. If we change that, then we fundamentally change who we are as a country.