August 7, 2003

JEFF JARVIS IS RUBBING IT IN where Mike Hawash is concerned, and links to a column in the Oregonian calling on Hawash’s supporters to admit that they were wrong.

Hawash has said that he was guilty, very explicitly:

“You and the others in the group were prepared to take up arms, and die as martyrs if necessary, to defend the Taliban. Is this true?” U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones asked Hawash during the hearing.

“Yes, your honor,” Hawash replied.

Hawash has also agreed to provide testimony against accomplices. As someone who was skeptical of this case, I have to say that it looks as if they’ve got the goods on him. On the other hand, heavyhanded tactics in obtaining plea bargains in other cases do produce a bit of a shadow on other plea bargains, perhaps including this one.

UPDATE: Reader Richard Heddleson thinks I’m wrong:

To a devoted reader and fan, you are starting to sound a tad defensive:

“On the other hand, heavyhanded tactics in obtaining plea bargains in other cases do produce a bit of a shadow on other plea bargains, perhaps including this one. ”

In the Lackawana case, the Feds may have been a bit heavy handed but not wrong. In war, decisions on the bubble go against the guilty/stupid and the sooner everybody floating near that bubble figures that out the better. In peace, we can be a bit more charitable. I feel for these fellows and their families, but they should never have made the trip.

Unfortunately, getting over excited about these less than clear cut cases takes the winds out of one’s sails for when the really bad one goes down. Here I am referring to Padilla. I strongly suspect he is a bad man. He is an American citizen. If he is treated as a belligerent and denied habeus corpus (or has this already happened?), I believe we’ll have a real problem, especially as I expect this “state of war” to last for at least 10 and maybe 20 years. For the next two decades the President will be able to jail any American indefinitely and potentially secretly in Gitmo with no recourse? This is a problem.

Throwing the book too hard at people who broke the law and were stupid, and perhaps not in that order, is no where as big a problem. Consistent suspicion of wrongdoing/incompetence by DOJ produces a bit of a shadow on protests when true outrages do occur.

Well, I take the point, and I’ve tried not to cry wolf. But the Lackawanna defendants were threatened with detention without trial unless they pled guilty. Once you make that kind of a threat, it’s just no longer as easy to say “he pled guilty, so he must be guilty.”

I absolutely oppose holding any U.S. citizen without trial. If you can do that, you can — and, history suggests, will — abuse that power against political opponents. There is no sign that the Justice Department is doing that now. But I don’t want to see temptation placed in their path, because I don’t believe that they can be trusted to resist it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Arthur Silber has more on the Padilla case.

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