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Is the Attorney General the New King of the United States?
8 November 2001
Were you aware that the attorney general of the United States now has the power to arrest someone without probable cause, hold that person without presenting evidence, and ultimately give that person a life sentence without ever having a trial?
That's the power Congress has given to the attorney general, which is stunning because I've always believed that the United States was a nation where due process could not be voided.
With this legislation, we've put a rule on the books that puts us on the level of evil, repressive dictators who rule by arbitrary and capricious whim and who lock people up on the authority of a king with no opportunity to challenge the order. Is the attorney general the new king of the United States?
The anti-terrorism bill states that "the Attorney General may certify an alien under this paragraph if the Attorney General has reasonable grounds to believe that the alien is engaged in any activity that endangers the national security of the United States."
That "certification" means the king suspects this person of terrorist activities and wants to deport him. The first problem is that the king is not required to produce any evidence before making this "certification." As long as he believes that the individual somehow endangers national security, he can order the detention.
The bill also says, "the Attorney General shall maintain custody of such an alien until the alien is removed from the United States. Such custody shall be maintained irrespective of any relief from removal for which the alien may be eligible, or any relief from removal granted the alien, until the Attorney General determines that the alien is no longer an alien."
Under this legislation, a French citizen vacationing in New York could be arrested, "certified" without evidence, jailed without trial and incarcerated for the rest of his life without ever being charged with a crime.
Even if he were able to get a hearing before a judge who determined that there was no evidence of terrorism, the legislation specifically undermines the judge's authority by giving the attorney general permission to maintain custody of the alien regardless of "any relief from removal granted the alien."
The legislation gives a false impression of restraint. It reads, "An alien detained solely under paragraph (1) who has not been removed and whose removal is unlikely in the foreseeable future, may be detained for additional periods of up to six months only if release of the alien will threaten the national security of the United States or the safety of the community or any person."
It's a false promise, because the alien was "certified" without the king having to produce any evidence, and he can be held for additional periods of time if the king, again without producing any evidence, says that the alien is a threat to national security. In addition, the length of the detention is entirely at the discretion of the king.
This is America. How could Congress, even in its darkest moment of panic, eliminate due process and put the United States on par with terror states that arrest people and throw them away without trials?
Already there are nearly 1,200 people being held by the Justice Department, but nothing about their identities or charges against them is being released.
This level of secrecy is unprecedented, and the amount of power being granted to the attorney general goes against everything the United States stands for. Are we a nation of laws, or are we to be governed by the arbitrary rule of a king?