Via Brad de Long I recently saw this post from Jim Henley on the failure of Appeal Courts to impose significant constraints on the US government’s policy of secret detention of terrorist suspects. Henley says
For those of you reading these words I have one request:
COULD I GET A LITTLE ALARMISM HERE, PLEASE?????
What has the appeals court authorized?
Please say those words aloud. “Secret detentions.” Now use them in a sentence:
The US government engages in the practice of secret detentions.
The US government has broadly asserted its right to engage in the practice of secret detentions.
A federal appeals court has affirmed that the US government may engage in secret detentions.
The biggest single step in this regard is the creation of the category of “enemy combatants” applied both to people taken prisoner in Afghanistan and elsewhere (for example Pakistan), allegedly in the course of the war aagainst terror. More significantly the category has been applied to Jose Padilla, a US citizen arrested in the United States allegedly after returning from a meeting with Al Qaeda.
Until recently, I haven’t been too alarmed about all this. It seemed likely that as with most wartime excesses, the Administration would moderate its claimed powers, and, if not, that the courts would constrain them. In particular, I thought that the actions in the Padilla case would ultimately be declared illegal and that the Administration would be happy enough having had a couple of years to operate outside the normal limits.
But this optimistic view looks increasingly untenable.
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