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Wednesday, January 21, 2004
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Refusal to review cases a failure of justice

COMMENTARY
Jeff Brubaker

The Supreme Court’s Jan. 12 decision not to review the cases of possibly thousands of detainees arrested after Sept. 11, 2001, represents an affront to civil liberties in this country. The Bush administration imprisoned these people (almost entirely Muslims and Arabs) in the name of national security, but their lengthy incarceration was both unwarranted and un-American and represents a failure of our judicial system.

According to the Bush administration many of those arrested committed some sort of immigration violation or were illegal immigrants. However the government refuses to disclose how many were deported, or how many are still in prison. The Bush administration hasn’t even filed charges against those being held, let alone accuse any of them of being terrorists. This, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general, violates a law requiring such imprisonment be limited to 90 days.

A federal appeals court has already decided in favor of the Bush administration, which argued that disclosing the names of those arrested would give terrorists a glimpse into the post-Sept. 11 terror investigation. But how can the judiciary system, which is designed to filter out unconstitutional laws and actions of the federal government, give in so easily? Why do these justices and the justices on the Supreme Court not seem to mind about the multitudes of people who are being held without being charged?

“Until some other court says otherwise, the government can continue the policy of secret arrests that seems fundamentally inconsistent with basic American values,” Steven Shapiro, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Associated Press.

The mere term ‘secret arrests’ is enough to send shivers down my spine. It brings to mind soviet gulags and Nazi secret police; armed men bursting through our doors in the dead of night to drag us away.

And before you think to yourself that this can never happen in the United States, keep in mind that it already has. The fear and suspicion of Japanese Americans in World War II led to the illegal internment of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens who would only receive a formal apology more than 40 years later.

Though some would surely argue otherwise, our form of democracy is not a flawless system of government. Occasionally we elect less than qualified leaders, reinforcing the belief of many of our forefathers, including Alexander Hamilton, that regular people are unfit and unable to govern themselves. While I happen to disagree with Mr. Hamilton, I do believe that people often tend to make the wrong decision. And when the people elect to power someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing, it is the duty of the Supreme Court to step up and prevent that person from doing irreparable harm.

In this case the Supreme Court has failed to do so. Though it is not my place to tell the justices of the Supreme Court how to do their job, I can say that allowing the president to imprison so called “enemies” without giving good reason is a mistake we will all live to regret.

Opinion Editor Jeff Brubaker is a junior history major from Weslaco.