Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

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06/03/2004: Thought for the Day:


In his comments accompanying the release of the Padilla document, Deputy Assistant Attorney General James Comey offered the following weird little tribute to the joys of suspending the Constitution at will: Had the government charged Padilla criminally, he said, "He would very likely have followed his lawyer's advice and said nothing, which would have been his constitutional right. ... He would likely have ended up a free man." Comey's point seems to be that constitutional protections produce bad evidence, in which case we should probably get rid of the Constitution in every criminal case. What he was really saying was that if you permit them to perform unconstitutional interrogations, the administration can get the accused to say exactly what we all wanted to hear.

The evidence in this document was collected during a two-year detention, in which Padilla was in solitary confinement, never charged with a crime, and only given access to his attorney this spring. Certainly his confessions might still be reliable, along with the confessions of Abu Zubaydah and other confederates being interrogated in secret. Or they might not. Without a trial we can never know, and as Phil Carter recently observed, there can now be no trial on the strength of this evidence since it was obtained unconstitutionally.

No one at the DOJ seems even to have pondered whether the public would credulously accept the truth of a document thatóby its own admissionóis a product of secret government interrogations. The lesson of Abu Ghraib was that we no longer trust what happens in dark dungeons, where the rule of law has been cast aside. To reassure us, the Justice Department responds with the assurance that no one there trusts what happens in the bright light of a constitutional democracy.
--Dahlia Lithwick


Len on 06.03.04 @ 07:21 AM CST



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