FINGER-POINTING

Bill Kristol wins the award for the first wingnut pundit to trot out the "I can't believe we're going to try the Northwest 253 suspect in a regular court" trope.

This is precisely the problem. This guy has been lawyered up. We don't know anything. One reason we don't know anything — he's not being treated like an enemy combatant. He's not being interrogated. We're not finding out everything we could know about Awlaki. This is an ongoing attack — enemy attempt to attack the United States, and we're treating it as a one-off law enforcement case.

In other words, if he isn't whisked off to a metal shipping container at Bagram AFB, sleep deprived, and repeatedly beaten for a couple of days we are somehow missing the point. Just think of what a valuable opportunity to get utterly useless "information" out of an abused captive we are ignoring. If you beat this asshole long enough he will tell you he's Osama bin Laden, but that's the kind of riveting intel that makes prosecuting a war on terror the AEI Way so fulfilling.

I've previously asked the question about why the right are so afraid to try these people in civil courts. Part of it has to do with this sense that we are coddling people by doing anything less than putting a bag over their heads and chaining them to a concrete floor for a few months. Part of it has to do with their Jack Bauer whack-off fantasies about ticking time-bombs and the value of making suspects talk. And part of it – neatly evidenced by Kristol's "lawyered up" comment – is the persistent fear that somehow the civil courts will find these people not guilty despite the mountains of evidence against them.

A portion of the American public operates under the belief that the justice system consists mostly of stone-cold guilty defendants being found not guilty on technicalities. With the help of the hated lawyers, criminal after criminal is released back onto the streets because some cop forgot to cross the T on a piece of paperwork. Does this happen? Yes, certainly it does. But how common is this outcome? And how common is it in a case such as this one in which the guilt of the accused is proven beyond any shadow of a doubt before the trial begins?

We are quite comfortable with a justice system that puts innocent (black) people behind bars or on death row but the prospect of a guilty person going free is so heinous that, in this example, whisking them off to the gulag to ensure an appropriately draconian level of punishment is preferable. It is infuriating on some level to think that there is a chance, however remote, that a suspect whose guilt is nearly certain can walk away from a courtroom unscathed. But from where do "technicalities" arise? Mostly from law enforcement. Nothing paves the road to acquittal with gold quite as well as shitty police work. Moral outrage is always directed at "the system" for letting criminals walk when if anything it should be directed at the people who decided to barge into a home without a search warrant or ignoring someone's request for counsel during an interrogation. No, cops are not machines and they can't be expected to be perfect but when they disregard the law and resort to end-justified means they offer the loopholes that we so greatly fear will be abused by the guilty.

What are the odds that this dipshit will be found not guilty by an American jury? I'd bet it's somewhere around a million to one, but I'd wager even more that if it does happen, the FBI and other agencies responsible for investigating the case and detaining the suspect will be to blame. Not that Bill Kristol and his ilk are interested in assigning blame to Our Heroes who wear the badge.

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21 Responses to “FINGER-POINTING”

  1. J. Dryden Says:

    Again an area where the public simply cannot distinguish between the movie/television version of practices, and the real thing. To wit: torture. In 'Ian Fleming/Tom Clancy World', torture works–it produces reliable information in a timely fashion, and which could never be acquired by any other means. And if you're Bill Kristol or the choir to which he preaches, then your notion of torture is utterly defined by this bullshit notion of a Stubbled Hero making the Tough Choices for the Greater Good and zapping confessions out of Swarthy Villains just in time to stop the countdown. So why not dip this jagoff's toes in a bucket of icewater and switch on the car battery?

    Oh, wait, that's right–because reality operates according to a dumb ol' completely different set of boring principles of physics, psychology, and consequences. All of which make torture roughly as accurate as consulting a ouija board. But what the hell? Giving in to our bloodlust is way fun, and pointing fingers at a namby-pamby justice system that most of us regard as a totally incompetent waste of taxpayer money (at least that's what we say when we're trying to figure out a way of getting out of jury duty) is just icing on the cake for Bill.

  2. Conrad S. Bane Says:

    At the risk of sounding pedantic, please be more circumspect in the future when referring to the criminal justice system. You refer to "civil courts," by which I take you to mean something opposed to the kangaroo courts where most red-blooded 'Mericans want to see these animals tried. But strictly speaking, a "civil court" is where a plaintiff seeks "legal or equitable remedy" from another party for damages they (presumably) suffered at the defendant's hands. A criminal court, on the other hand, is where the state (or State, as the case may be) pursues justice against those accused of countermanding the criminal code. An American criminal court might certainly be more "civil" than, say, a Yemeni or Saudi criminal court, but that doesn't make it a "civil court."

  3. Prudence Says:

    I don't understand how Kristol can still make money– his word is worth bupkis. Hell, it's worth the lint in the pocket of bupkis. Mind you, this is a patttern– I stopped reading the Wa-Po when they said they couldn't scrounge up enough money for Froomkin but kept paying that villainous Dr Strangelove-made-flesh wanker, Krauthammer. The screamy wheel gets the monetary grease, not the thoughtful, balanced one.

  4. Prudence Says:

    And Conrad, mission accomplished! You did sound pedantic. The impression I took away from Ed's post was that by "civil courts" he meant "civilian courts", as opposed to military "tribunals"– complete with torture, statements made under duress, and an uninformed and hobbled defence– which is what neotards like Kristol, Krauthammer, Cheney et al would consider justice. But what do I know, I read UK and EU law, and haven't practiced since god was in short pants.

  5. Da Moose Says:

    Kristol and at least half of AEI need to go back to Israel. With regard to our justice system, when I was visiting guys in the Georgia State Prison system as a paralegal before I got into IT, I traveled all over GA to almost all of the 30 or so GA prisons. This was during our bombardment of the Serbs in the late 90s. While I was driving from prison to prison, I'd listen to self-righteous elitist libs talk about how wrong it was that we allowed the Serbs to treat the Bosnian Moslems the way they did, i.e. qausi-concentration camps and such. As I drove up to each prison listening to this self-righteous crap, I couldn't help but see the irony as I was starting yet another visit to a camp that housed between 2,000 and 3,000 black men out in the middle of Nowheres, Georgia. Talk about concentration. Oh, and by the way, true story: One day, I drove up to one of the prisons and noticed that the American flag flying above the prison was upside down. I told the guards and they nearly arrested me for pointing out their stupidity. There was a brief five minute panic while they fixed the issue. During this pause, while was I being processed for entry, I could not believe the irony of what this accidental upside down flag represented. The American justice system is a joke.

  6. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    I tend to believe that there are significantly more people who plead guilty because it's the lesser of two evils than there are those who actually are guilty and walk away. The prison population seems to back this assumption up to some degree. Often enough, the 'justice' in the criminal justice system might be better written in quotes.

    Having said this, there's no way that someone already tried in the court of the 24-hour media and with all the attending evidence could possibly be found innocent, O.J. Simpson notwithstanding.

  7. John Says:

    It is a classic example of the American right-wing paradox: They hate government and tell us that government always screws up everything it touches, and that the government is always trying to take away our rights. But those arms of the government best-equipped to take away those rights and oppress people — namely the military, the police, and the intelligence services — are infallible bastions of purity, completely devoid of any corruption or abuse.

    As you pointed out, Ed, criminals that walk in our justice system, on the rare occasion it does happen, don't walk because some rookie cop forgot to dot his i's on a piece of paper. They walk because of substantial breaches of the rules regarding how evidence is collected and processed, and how arrests are carried out. Republicans, and their neo-con allies, either forget or willfully disregard the reason behind these "technicalities": Not to let guilty men walk free, but to ensure that our police and other related agencies do not overstep their bounds and disregard the rule of law.

  8. comrade x Says:

    The sad thing is that our prison system is more brutal than that of the Russian Tsars. At least under their system you did your required time in Siberia and then resumed your life. Once you go to prison in modern America, you are put on what one cop described as the " electronic plantation". The ex- con's record follows him or her wherever they go. You can't get a job unless you are farmed out to one of the few rehab programs avaliable, for minimum wage. Indeed in the increasingly privatized prison system, it is more profitable ( for the owners of prison services) to keep people locked up, so they can be hired out putting out forest fires or picking vegetables for . 77 cents an hour.

  9. Desargues Says:

    John: They don't really hate the government — only that part of it that's supposed to help people. Both kinds of right-wingers — Big-Gub'mint Christian fascists and Minimalist Gov't glibertarians — looove the military and the police: they keep the lesser breeds at bay and enforce their beloved property rights. In addition, the Christian Right also loves the idea of government as an effective tool to enforce their version of public virtue (see also: Wahhabi, fundamentalism). What they viscerally hate is using the government to help anyone but themselves: socialism for the rich is fine, and so is state subsidies and earmarks for the 'tarded states where these assholes live. But talk about education, hospitals and unemployment benefits for the darkies, the non-Christians, the women and the gays, and these psychopaths start sputtering with rage about welfare queens, young bucks buying t-bone steaks, undeserving immigrants, the homosexual agenda, creeping socialism, I want my country back, and keep the government out of my Medicare. They're dimwits and dipshits, and fuck them.

    I've previously asked the question about why the right are so afraid to try these people in civil courts… I ask the question: why are they so afraid to come out and propose to crush these people's testicles with a pair of tongs, or burn them all over with a blowtorch, of pull their fingernails. After all, the information they "withhold" has the potential to save many precious American lives and their precious bodily fluids, so what's a mutilated sand negro compared to the bodily integrity of irreplaceable, obviously superior Americans?

    What are the odds that this dipshit will be found not guilty by an American jury?… If we keep in mind that this country has the highest rate of incarceration in the West, I'd say pretty low.

  10. Uri Says:

    The thing is, our criminal system actually does have lots of technicalities and loopholes that can be used to get guilty people off. But they require lots of time and energy to use, with the resulting two-tiered criminal law system in which you're far better off rich and guilty than poor and innocent. "No Equal Justice" by David Cole is a highly recommended discussion of this system.

  11. ladiesbane Says:

    A few things:

    Did you ever consider becoming a police officer? Me neither. Most college grads don't. And yet we expect cops to be lawyers, or do work that a lawyer can't pick apart. They do need more brains, more legal training, and higher procedural standards, but until they get it, poor case building will be a problem.

    The only time I hear Cons admit the justice system is effed up beyond repair is when they resist having terrorists tried in civilian courts.

    Also: assigning military status to terrorists is an enormous mistake. It legalizes their status as enemy combatants. It allows the possibility that their acts might be appropriate in the context of war — which decreases the likelihood that any prosecution might be successful. It protects their use of violence as a means of resolution. There is more, but do you get the point? Soldiers make lawful war, but civilians must keep the peace; which do the Cons want them to be?

    War is not an "anything goes" situation, and there is more to the legal aspect of war than the Geneva Conventions. Since our last leader broke the law with impunity, we must strive to be above reproach in our interpretation and application of the law. It's one reason I wanted Obama to be President: we need a lawyer.

  12. Nan Says:

    Once again, you've nailed it, as have the commenters. And, speaking of Georgia, earlier this year I served on the jury for the trial of a man arrested for a double homicide in Decatur. Based on most of the evidence presented, the Decatur PD does not hire the best or the brightest. If we had only had the evidence the PD collected on its own, the defendant would be free today. Fortunately, about 30 days after the crime was committed, the prosecuting attorney's office had the smarts to subpoena the man's cell phone records. Hint for anyone planning future crimes: do not text message friends trying to set up an alibi 20 minutes after shooting someone. Unlike voice calls, texts can be (and are) archived.

    Georgia, incidentally, in true American justice system fashion, has figured out a way to turn one crime into multiples: the man was charged on three separate counts for each murder, more or less ensuring that even if there had been any inclination to plea bargain, he'd still die of old age in prison. If Stalin were still alive, he'd probably be envious — I don't think even Uncle Joe managed to put as many citizens into the Soviet gulag on a per capita basis as the U.S. has behind bars now. I don't think criminals should be given a pass (especially when it comes to truly heinous crimes, like murder), but we do seem to have lost all sense of proportion and willingness to allow people to move on with their lives once they've served their time.

    Which reminds me, one of the low wage uses of prison labor, in addition to the tasks Comrade X mentions, is staffing call centers for services such as making hotel reservations or processing catalog orders. A few years ago American Airlines had a contract with a prison in (IIRC) California for "customer service" calls.

  13. Pan Sapiens Says:

    Personally, I'm all for torture. The problem is, we torture the wrong people. I'd love to see 50,000 volts passed through Bill Kristol's withered old nutsack at some point of the broadcast. In fact, it should be a requirement for any pundit that wishes to opine on TV. Now THAT's Entertainment!

    (Maybe implant an electrode into Dick Cheney's amygdala? Make him hallucinate thirty-foot slavering cannibalistic iguanas on Leno? Must See TV!)

  14. Andrew Says:

    If the general public really believed that stone-guilty people who "lawyer up" get off on technicalities all the time, they'd be committing crimes and hiring lawyers, not home watching television.

  15. Desargues Says:

    Nan: but we do seem to have lost all sense of proportion and willingness to allow people to move on with their lives once they've served their time… It must be the heavy influence of that Christian culture of charity and forgiveness some say is the essence of America. That may explain why they're so eager to keep this a Christian nation.

  16. Danny Says:

    Why wasn't Rove arrested for Contempt of Congress for refusing to testify? That punk should be renditioned.

  17. Desargues Says:

    Republican response template to whatever objection leveled at them: "It's not ___ when we do it." Also — liberals hate America. Also.

  18. jazzbumpa Says:

    There is yet another problem at the core of out criminal "justice" system. For profit prisons. They lobby continuously for tougher sentencing, have zero interest in rehab, and basically aren't accountable to anyone.

    They certainly don't care about guilt or innocence They just want billable bodies in small, barred rooms.

    It's among the very worst of the many bad things that are going on, and you hear nothing about it.

    Nothing.

    We are so fucked.
    JzB

  19. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    Dude, these fucking white d00d douchebags simply can't conceive of the possibility that *they* could be caught up in a bogus prosecution, and so long as the only peeps they see wrongfully convicted are a bunch of niggers spics and arabs, they don't give a shit.

  20. Blissex Says:
  21. Pete Says:

    If these self-styled "conservatives" would listen to John McCain, they would know that torture doesn't get good intel. As a POW, McCain, after repeated demands to name the members of his outfit, is said to have finally given up the starting lineup of the Packers. It made the pain stop because the interrogators had a list of names.

    McCain is in my opinion wrong about a lot of things, but I believe him on the question of torture. He's been there. The Bill Kristols and Dick Cheneys of the world have not.

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