Thursday, October 18, 2007

Does Osama Bin Laden deserve any civil rights?

On one hand, I will go to any length to capture or kill terrorists. On the other hand, American citizens, like myself, deserve full protection from government prosecution. Does US law allow tougher treatment for terrorists than full US citizens? Should it? How do you distinguish between scumbag terrorists and virtuous citizens entitled to Miranda rights, habeas corpus, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, court appointed lawyers, and fair trials? Suppose the terrorist is a US citizen?

The Republicans attempted to make such a distinction in the FISA bill currently before the House. The Republicans planned to offer a motion that politically vulnerable Democrats would have a hard time voting against. The amendment would have said that nothing in the bill could limit surveillance of Osama bin Laden and terrorist organizations.

This would have established that Osama and terrorists get less protection than ordinary citizens. The democratic leadership didn't like this idea and the FISA bill has been pulled for rethink.

A reasonable compromise would allow FBI/CIA/NSA surveillance ( tap phones, read email, open US mail, demand billing records, hack into computers) of foreign (Russian) spies, members of terrorist outfits on the Attorney General's list, and foreign nationals on foreign soil without any sort of warrant. Surveillance of US citizens at home or abroad , and foreigners on US soil need a warrant from a court.

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