Saturday, September 05, 2009

Top Bush-era lawyer 'can be sued'.

When a regime like the one of George W. Bush are in power, they can rip up the law and carry out the most egregious assaults on the Constitution, and it appears as if there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.

But, it is always at the moment when they lose power, that their chickens come home to roost.

A former US attorney general can be sued by an American citizen held as a witness suspected of having information in a terrorism case, a court has ruled.
Abdullah al-Kidd accuses John Ashcroft, attorney general from 2001 to 2005, of violating his constitutional rights in 2003, when he was held for 16 days.

The court said detention of witnesses without charge after the 9/11 attacks was "repugnant to the constitution".

The US Department of Justice said it was reviewing the court's order.

A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals also said the government's policy was "a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history."

Mr al-Kidd was detained in 2003 because the government thought he had information in a computer terrorism case against fellow University of Idaho student Sami Omar al-Hussayen.

He was never charged with a crime, and Mr al-Hussayen was acquitted after a trial.
The suspension of Habeas Corpus was, for me, one of the most outrageous acts which the Bush regime indulged in. The notion that the president, on his word alone, had the power to rob individuals of their liberty - without giving them any access to courts, or any right to be judged by a jury of their peers - was the most outrageous claim he made, during a presidency of many outrageous claims of power.

It was, as the court itself now appears to recognise, "repugnant to the constitution".

Mr al-Kidd filed the lawsuit against Mr Ashcroft and other officials in 2005.

He said his detention was part of an illedgal government policy to arrest and detain people - particularly Muslim men and those of Arab escent - as material witnesses if the government suspected them of a crime but had no evidence to charge them.

That last sentence contains everything which was wrong about the way the Bush regime reacted in the aftermath of 9-11. American courts and the entire legal system have always operated on what can be proven. It is incumbent on the prosecution to "prove beyond reasonable doubt" the case they sought to make against a defendant.

Bush changed all of that and, in doing so, ripped up hundreds of years of jurisprudence.

I honestly don't think I am exaggerating when I say that Bush gave himself the powers of a King.

People could be jailed on his word and his word alone, and they had no recourse to any courts to hear their side of the story. The judges are right to refer to this period as, "some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history."

This was, as even David Broder now admits, "one of the darkest chapters of American history".

I care not whether the case against Ashcroft succeeds, that matters not a jot. What is important is that the blatant illegality of the Bush regime is finally accepted as the stain on America's conscience that it was.

"It's a very big ruling, because qualified immunity is ordinarily a very robust form of protection," said Richard Seamon, a professor at the University of Idaho College of Law and a former assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General. "To overcome that immunity, you have to show that the defendant almost deliberately acted unconstitutionally to violate someone's rights – no innocent mistakes."

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