Opinions worth considering:
- NY TImes: The Witch Hunt by Bob Herbert is one of the best editorials I have read on the subject of civil liberties. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.
- MSNBC: Using history as a cudgel
– by Jonathan Alter is an interesting dicussion on the debates on civil liberties. The author says that the old left-right paradigm doesn’t hold up, and rather should be described as “Civil libertarians” vs. Civil securitarians (a word coined by Bush himself)
What I found most interesting is this recounting of past civil rights abuses in times of war:
- Throughout U.S. history, the most common response to threats to national security has been to clamp down on free speech:
The Alien and Sedition Act of 1796 (enacted under John Adams and repealed under Thomas Jefferson) made it a federal crime to falsely criticize the government. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus (which allows judges to demand that detainees be charged and tried, not just imprisoned) and threw critical Northern congressmen and newspaper editors in jail. During World War I, Congress made it a federal crime to criticize the war effort and the draft, and dissidents were jailed. At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, some people were sentenced to jail just for studying Marx and Lenin…
The misuses of history emerge more clearly when it comes to detainees and their rights. The Bush administration points to Lincoln for justification. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s first proposed anti-terrorism bill called for suspension of the writ of habeas corpus (that was rejected by Congress) and the now-famous executive order of November 13 is so broad that it achieves the same end by fiat. The other precedent offered is Franklin Roosevelt’s military tribunal for eight Nazi saboteurs caught on American shores during World War II….
I guess Solomon was right. Nothing is new under the sun.