Monday, November 03, 2003

Michael Froomkin is really concerned about the state of civil liberties in the US.

"A secret trial. A SECRET TRIAL. In the US. IN THE USA. Ok. Ok. I refuse to panic until the Supreme Court approves this. That means I have a few weeks at least.

If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said that secret trials were impossible in the USA...

The idea that the government would attempt to hold entire secret star chamber-like trials, closed to the public, trials whose very existence was a secret, is repugnant to this nations’s traditions and fundamental values. And if history teaches us anything about abuses of power, it is that secret trials are dangerous...

The government’s — successful! — attempt to inaugurate a regime of secret trials and secret detentions is a really lousy signal about the state of panic among our ruling class — and about the brittle state of our liberties. What really boggles the mind is that two courts have allowed this to happen — now only the Supreme Court stands between us and a country with secret trials into which suspects (recall - they’re innocent until proven guilty!) just vanish into the system.

Before you say ‘terrorism is different’ or ‘we’re at war now’, note that the government says they want to use this tactic in drug cases too. Worry. Really worry about this one. We’re one step closer to the day when this might not be a joke.

And in fact, the subject of this secret trial isn’t some super-ninja terrorist from beyond the deep. He’s an Algerian waiter. And he is obviously not that dangerous, since he’s been out on a $10,000 bond since March 2002."

What's got Prof Froomkin so worked up is this report in the Christian Science Monitor on the "Secret 9/11 case."

(Thanks to Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy for the pointer to this).

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