If you're for the Bill of Rights, then you must be against the proposal put forth by George W. Bush this week. President Bush has asked Congress to give him the power to put people on trial without allowing them to see the the evidence against them. Bush wants to convict people of crimes and punish them on the basis of secret evidence that the accused, and the accused's lawyer, never gets to see. Why will the evidence be secret? Well, Bush wants to keep that information secret too.
So, what will this new kind of trial look like? You can boil it down to three steps.
1. The government accuses you of a crime.
2. The government says that it has evidence that proves your guilt, but that evidence has to remain a secret, so no one can see it.
3. You're convicted and sentenced to pay a fine, spend time in prison, or even be put to death.
This is not the American way. I'm don't mean that abstractly. I mean that, as a matter of law, this procedure is not the American way of holding a trial. It's the way they held trials in Nazi Germany, or the Soviet Union. The Constitution of the United States of America says that what Bush is asking to do is strictly forbidden.
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, reads:
"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."
A couple days ago, a smart aleck came on this blog and declared that the Constitution only gives rights to American citizens. Everybody else has no rights, this person claimed. It's amazing what a bold assertion, given under the cover of ignorance, can do. The plan fact is that this person was dead wrong. The Constitution of the United States regulates the American government completely, including its dealings with all people under its powers. Everybody under the jurisdiction of the US government - including all its prisoners, foreign and domestic - have the same constitutional rights.
Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier are lawyers. They know what the historical standard has been. They know what rights the Bill of Rights guarantees us. They also know very well what George W. Bush has proposed.
If Bush's request is put into law, it will be through the Congress. Mike Arcuri and Ray Meier are asking to represent us in Congress. So, it seems to me quite appropriate that Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier address this issue. Do they support the Bill of Rights or not?
So far, Arcuri and Meier have both been silent about the extraordinary revelation that President Bush personally ordered the creation of an illegal system of CIA prisoner of war camps in which torture methods like waterboarding are being used against prisoners who have had their habeas corpus rights and Geneva Conventions protections denied to them.
This silence is shocking, given the gravity of the situation. It should not be compounded by a silence in response to the attempt by Bush to overturn the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.