Suddenly the fix
for terrorism seems to be secret military tribunals on American soil. Have so
many Americans really lost confidence in our institutions? Well, I am happy
to report that there is nothing broken about our system of justice. Executive
orders authorizing secret trials on American soil, however, send a very
different message to America and the world. That is a shame. It is one thing
to hold a military-style trial for an enemy captured in conflict abroad, and
I don't think many would argue otherwise. It is entirely different, though,
when government asserts a right to take people off the streets of our own
country and try them in secret- where in some cases death is to be the
There have been
many arguments for why setting up military tribunals on U.S. soil is a good
idea. None of them are compelling. Many have cited three-ring circus
celebrity trials in the past as justification for secret trials of suspected
terrorists. Secret trials might be more orderly, that is true, but ask anyone
who has suffered under a totalitarian regime whether is it worth sacrificing
justice for "efficiency."
warned that civil trials of terrorism suspects will result in leaks of
intelligence information. This too is unconvincing. There are already
mechanisms in place to protect sensitive information from being compromised
in trial, and many such trials have been held.
conservatives, have offered the example of President Franklin Roosevelt's use
of a military court to try a group of Nazi saboteurs during World War II. It
is curious to see FDR as a model for conservatives, but nevertheless we were
in a declared war and those captured were agents of a country with which we
were in an active state of war. We are not currently in a state of war,
despite what pundits might claim.
consideration is the fact that this executive order does not prescribe
standard military trials held under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for
suspects. Whereas the UCMJ requires unanimity in capital cases, this new
military court requires only two-thirds agreement, even to deliver a sentence
of death. Also, Fifth Amendment guarantees are compromised in this new court,
as is the right to appeal and other due process guarantees.
Finally, it is
argued that only terrorists are to be subjected to these secret courts. But
how do we decide someone is a terrorist before a trial? That sounds an
awful lot like government deciding guilt before a show trial. More troubling,
under recently passed "anti-terrorism" legislation, the definition
of "terrorism" for federal criminal purposes has been greatly
expanded. A person can now be considered a terrorist for belonging to a
pro-constitution group, a citizen militia, or a pro-life organization. How
long before these "terrorists" are subject to secret trials?
Who cares, supporters
will say. After all, only foreigners are to be tried under these courts and
we all know only American citizens are afforded the benefits of our judicial
system. Fortunately our founding fathers saw things differently, as they drew
up a system that recognized the fundamental rights of all humanity and
created a model for constitutional governance. Do Americans really expect
Germany or Holland, for example, to disregard their own laws when trying
Americans suspected of crimes in their countries? Of course not.
of military tribunals promise that only foreigners are to be tried in these
secret trials. But what is to come next? What if a U.S. citizen is suspected
of working closely with terrorists in one of their cells? Would it be a huge
leap in this case to include him in the military trials of his partners in
more than ever must trust the great constitutional institutions that have
served us well for more than 200 years. The separation of powers and rule of
law are cornerstones. Remove them and our way of life will quickly crumble.
other articles by Ron Paul
Ron Paul of Texas enjoys a national reputation as the premier advocate for
liberty in politics today. Dr. Paul is the leading spokesman in Washington
for limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return
to sound monetary policies based on commodity-backed currency. For more
information click on the Project Freedom website.
with the authorization of Dr. Paul.
Dr. Ron Paul