Americans were shocked on Christmas Day to learn of the attempted bombing of a flight to Detroit. This foreign terror suspect was given the same legal rights as a U.S. citizen, and immediately stopped providing critical intelligence.
As Senator-elect Scott Brown says, we should be spending taxpayer dollars to defeat terrorists, not to protect them.
I am frankly appalled that candidates and officials continue to score points with this rhetoric. Back in the heat of the 2008 campaign, Palin got cheers for making a quip of it, and Obama responded:
"The reason that you have this principle is not to be soft on terrorism. It's because that's who we are. That's what we're protecting."
I was bothered by this too - Palindrome and I discussed it last night, it bothered her even more.
Whats odd is that as far I know there has been relatively little political hay made of the recent criminal conviction of a Georgia Tech student for providing material support for foreign terrorism. If the Republicans truly believe that all terrorism suspects should be denied trials, why aren't they speaking out about that conviction. I see two possibilities:
1. Its not politically expedient because the prosecutions where started by the Bush administration and their goal is more about scoring political points against the other party than actually articulating a substantive policy position.
2. They are drawing some kind of line. They see the two situations as being different, possibly because the Tech student was a "U.S. Person" and not a foreign national or because the nature of the offenses is different? (While people are often stalwart in the defense of their own civil liberties, the civil liberties of others are more rarely defended.)
Last night I was leaning toward 2 but now I'm leaning toward 1.
Its also worth pointing out that while the Obama administration might have better sounding political rhetoric, its not clear what their actual position is. They have decided to hold 50 detainees forever because any potential trial has been tainted by the use of torture, they've engaged in an effort to shut down Gitmo, which is both ill considered and phony, and they seem to have picked up the Bush Administration's line everywhere regarding the use of state secrets to absolve themselves of responsibility for illegal acts.
If there is some sort of substantive difference between Obama and Bush on civil liberties and the treatment of detainees its not clear to me what it is. It seems to me that both parties are offering us the exact same operational policies and the real difference is just the spin they put on what they are doing - what color bottle the sugar water comes in.