Saturday, November 26, 2011

26 November 2011 Where does the battlefield begin and who polices it?

          The ACLU has organized an on-line petition aimed at the defeat, or at least the modification of, S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. 
                The bill is extremely controversial.  Part of it authorizes some practices currently in use to deal with battlefield captives who are not members of an opposing armed force.  Part of it recognizes the necessity of dealing with citizens of other nations who are actively working within our borders or those of our allies to damage the U.S., to harm its citizens.  Part of it is meant to deal with those U.S. citizens who were already, or who have become radicalized secondary to religious and/or political indoctrination via internet, media, or other means. 
                I can see the dangers involved in allowing what seems to be a shift to warrantless arrests and to holding prisoners in an undocumented, undisclosed manner in secret prisons.  There is some concern over changing authority for these prisoners to military detention centers and to military courts.  I find these shifts potentially unconstitutional.  Yet our justice system is not always well designed to deal with combatants and terrorists. 
                What needs to be firmed up is who is a combatant, who is a terrorist, and where the battlefield begins and ends.  We are at war with a religion-driven ideology that recruits its cannon fodder and higher-level operatives from all over the world.  While some of our allies are willing and able to work in concert with our armed forces and our national and internal police agencies, not all nations are so willing or cooperative.  If an attack upon our military or upon our citizens and infrastructure is being planned in a nation that will not render intelligence or police assistance to prevent such an attack and to capture the planned attackers, how do we prevent such attacks being planned and executed?  Are we obligated to proceed with a military solution as we did in Pakistan to kill bin Laden?  If our internal police agencies discover and foil such a plan, should the military receive custody of the suspects?
                These are all gray areas to my mind.  I recognize the need to prevent attacks and to protect our citizens and soil.  I recognize the danger to our established legal system and our civil liberties.  I tend to think that a military trial may be the best solution to avoid the circus-like atmosphere that now takes place around celebrity trials.  Certainly, an orderly, business like trial with no chance to recruit from the prison is in order. 
                Gloria is adamantly opposed to the bill as it now stands.  I find that I can stomach it with the Udall amendment.  However you may feel, it would be good to follow the link above and read the ACLU web site.  There you’ll find a link to the petition.  I’m interested in knowing your thoughts and how you instructed your senator.

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