America is Advanced Citizenship
But without protection of these rights, its possible you could be crying this from a cell in a military brig in South Carolina. Your cries would never be heard by a Judge or a Jury. Instead they would only be heard by a couple of Marine Corps guards. All it would take for this to happen is for Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign a document stating that you are an "enemy combatant".
"Everybody knows American isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating, at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free, then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest." Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free."
-- from the movie "American President", speech by President Shepherd
Jose Padilla (a.k.a. Abdullah al Muhajir) sits in a military brig in South Carolina. He's been imprisoned by the United States Government since May 8th. He was seized by Federal authorities when he tried to fly into Chicago's O'Hare airport.
The American public knew nothing of this until June 10th. At that point, Attorney General John Ashcroft made an announcement of the case, and that Jose Padilla was being transferred from the custody of Federal law enforcement to the custody of the US Defense Department. At this point, Jose Padilla was being declared an "enemy combatant". There are apparently no current plans to bring Jose Padilla to trial, and he is apparently being detained "indefinitely".
This is what had the above quote from a movie speech ringing in my ears. I don't know Jose Padilla. Apparently he is a gang member from Chicago who converted to Islam in prison. Then he travelled to Pakistan and joined up with Al Queda. I say apparently because all of this information comes from US government sources via corporate news media.
Nonetheless, this description comes close to "a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours".
But I now find myself in a position where I must defend Jose Padilla. The rights he has as an American citizen have been torn-up, shredded, burned to fine ashes and thrown out the window. And this means that my rights as an American citizen, and your rights as an American citizen have also been torn-up, shredded burned and tossed right out the same window.
But you say, "I'm not a terrorist, so this doesn't effect my rights".
The key question here is who decides whether you are a "terrorist" or "enemy combatant?" In this case, it is apparently the Attorney General of the United States, John Ashcroft. This decision does not appear to need to be affirmed by a judge or a jury of your peers. And there appears to be no possibility for review of this decision or appeal of this decision. John Ashcroft now apparently has the power to declare an American citizen an "enemy combatant", and thus disappear him into a military prison in South Carolina "indefinitely".
This is why I feel I must defend Jose Padilla. This is why I feel that EVERY American should stand up and defend Jose Padilla. What must be defended are not the actions of Jose Padilla, but instead the rights to due process that are guaranteed by the US Constitution to Jose Padilla and any other American.
Our Founding Fathers lived in a monarchy, where individual rights were not protected. They lived in a society where a Royal Official could order the arrest and imprisonment of anyone, and hold them indefinitely without ever bringing them to trial. Because of this, our forefathers insisted that the US Constitution contain the following Amendments guaranteeing the rights of Americans.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
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 defence.
These rights were important to our forefathers for exactly the reasons shown by the case of Jose Padilla. These rights are designed precisely to keep an official of the United States government from doing what has been done to Jose Padilla.
This does not mean Jose Padilla should be turned loose, given roses and a kiss on the cheek and keys to the US government's stockpiles of Uranium. But what should happen, is that the US Government should make a presentation to a judge that they have sufficient evidence to hold Jose Padilla. What should happen is that evidence US government has on Jose Padilla should be presented to a Grand Jury of American citizens who then decide whether this is sufficient to bring charges against Jose Padilla. What should then happen is that Jose Padilla should go on trial for these charges. What should then happen is that Jose Padilla should have right to his own defense council to aid in his defense. What should then happen is that Jose Padilla should have right to bring forth his own witnesses and present his own evidence in his defense. What should then happen is that Jose Padilla should have decision of his guilt or innocence made by a jury of his peers.
This process is not some technicality that needs to be followed. This process is protection that each of us has as American citizens that we will not be thrown into prison indefinitely based only on order of Attorney General. It is this process of Judges, Grand Juries and Juries that forces government to present evidence and build a case that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that an American citizen is guilty and should spend time in prison.
Still not convinced that every American should rise up in defense of Jose Padilla's constitutional rights? Well, look at it this way. Suppose this happened to you. Again you cry, "It can't happen to me. I'm not a terrorist." But without protection of these rights, its possible you could be crying this from a cell in a military brig in South Carolina. Your cries would never be heard by a Judge or a Jury. Instead they would only be heard by a couple of Marine Corps guards. All it would take for this to happen is for Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign a document stating that you are an "enemy combatant".
We must defend Jose Padilla's rights. Furthermore, we must act now to protect these rights in a more secure fashion. Its time to take a very close look at a government of United States that can claim to act in violation of rights guaranteed to all Americans in United States Constitution.
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