On Monday, October 23, 2006, The Public Opinion in Chambersburg, PA, published its endorsement of Tony Barr, Democrat, over Bill Shuster, Republican, in the race for U. S. Congress in Pennsylvania's 9th District. This was a courageous endorsement, because the Opinion is published in an area of the state where party registration is heavily Republican. Rather than bowing to local partisanship, the Opinion based its endorsement on principles.
Late in the election cycle, it is possible for a candidate to mislead the public with less fear of the truth being made clear to voters than might be the case when there is time for rational debate, debate which Mr Shuster refused despite Mr Barr's invitation. In order to avoid that situation in the Public Opinion's distribution area, we offer here an analysis of Mr. Shuster's statement in the advertisement:
1. Unusual repeated naming of an editor as intimidation:
It is very unusual that the editor was personally attacked by name, not once, but several times. It's an intimidation technique. The "I know who you are" menacing is very much apparent in that technique, a shameful effort to pressure her, which, I certainly hope, will fail completely. Most responses to newspaper editorials refer to "the editor." Frankly, we've never read one in which the name of the editor has been mentioned, not in the NY Times, Washington Post, etc. Remarkable indeed!
2. The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)
Regarding the National Intelligence Estimate....although classified it was completed in April of this year and made available to Congress but not to the public until a recent leak to the NY Times1. Both critics of the war and the administration have made selective portions of the classified material public to bolster their respective sides. Taken together the NIE seems to be reporting that :
A) Al Qaeda is far weaker than it was on 9/11, but the overall jihadi cause is stronger today, and ONE of the reasons for that is the war in Iraq.
B) The NIE also states that setting up democratic institutions in Iraq and throughout the Middle East could have a significant impact on undermining the jihadi movement.
Here's the problem for Mr. Shuster and the administration: Al Qaeda was nearly non-existent in Saddam's Iraq. Even today, military estimates are that less than 2% of Iraqi fighters represent Al Qaeda. That Iraq could ever become a staging ground for Al Qaeda type terrorists or the jihadi movement in general is due entirely to our invasion of Iraq. While the administration continues to say its goal is to set up democratic institutions in Iraq, the failure of the political process there to develop a unity government and provide security becomes more evident every day as violence escalates and civil war between various sectarian factions, private militias (some controlled my members of the government) Sunni insurgents grows continually worse. Efforts by the U.S. military to get the Iraqi police and the Iraqi military to "stand up" have been met with lukewarm success. More and more U.S. troops need to be committed to curtailing the violence, which has increased to nearly 800 incidents a week, double that of a year ago.
Ms. Bennett was correct in saying the NIE indicates the war in Iraq is decreasing our security, because we are nowhere near close to the development of the kind of democracy in Iraq that would inhibit the jihadist movement, which the report says needs to happen if we are to become more secure. In addition, the administration is no longer even talking about creating a democracy in Iraq but rather talks about the need to create some stability and security in the country.
2. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA)
As to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Shuster conveniently lets out a crucial line in the law that very well MAY refer to American citizens and not just "aliens" in this country. Shuster says the law applied only to "alien unlawful enemy combatants engaged in hostilities against American citizens." That does not take into consideration Section 802 of the Patriot Act which states that American citizens can be held without a trial as "enemy combatants." Jose Padilla, an American citizen, was interned in a Navy brig for over three years with no charges against him. The courts have not ruled whether Americans picked up in the U.S. can be so charged.
The Washington Post reported after 9/11 Bush announced a "parallel legal system" in which he could declare any individual on the planet an enemy combatant. According to the Post, "U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike may be investigated, jailed, interrogated, tried and punished without legal protections guaranteed by the ordinary system, lawyers inside and outside the government say."
4. Military Commissions Act and Legal Scholars
Shuster challenged Bennett to "name one legal scholar" who says the Military Commissions Act does affect American citizens. There are dozens.
Yale Law Professor, Bruce Ackerman, "The compromise legislation authorizes the President to seize American citizens as enemy combatant, even if they have never left the U.S. and once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights."
Georgetown Law Professor Mary Lederman, "this subsection (ii) of the definition of `unlawful enemy combatant' means that if the Pentagon says you're an unlawful enemy combatant, using whatever criteria they wish as far as Congress, and U.S. law are concerned, you are one, whether or not you have any connection to `hostilities' or at all."
George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, "It says that if you even give material support to an organization that the President deems connected to a terrorist group, you too can be (declared) an enemy combatant. And the fact that he appoints a tribunal to determine that is meaningless. Standing behind him at the signing ceremony was his Attorney General, who signed a memo that said you could torture people. So if he appoints someone like that to be AG, you can imagine who he's going to be putting on this board. It's a huge sea change for our democracy. The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the President. Now we must. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the President signed essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values.
Bill Goodman, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated, "the bill will be struck down by the courts because of the provision that strips the right of habeas corpus, which is a direct violation of the suppression clause of the Constitution because it denies the accused the opportunity to challenge the legality of their detention."
Senator Arlen Specter, although he voted for the bill, stated that he doubted it would survive judicial scrutiny.
5. Effect of torture and warrantless wiretaps on the prevention of Terrorist attacks:
Neither Shuster, nor the President, have any proof that the torture techniques used on detainees, the ability to listen to conversations without warrants, and stripping prisoners of constitutional rights have prevented terrorist attacks, nor that they will in the future. Senator McCain, a POW in Vietnam, has indicated on many occasions that torture techniques do NOT result in actionable information. He, Senator Graham and Senator Warner held out to get language in the MCA that would not undermine the Geneva Accords on that issue but reached a compromise that essentially gave the President the ability to determine what does and does not constitute torture, as we have recently seen in VP Cheney's comments about "dunking underwater" methods being a no-brainer, then protesting that he didn't mean "water boarding," a technique that goes back to the Spanish Inquisition.
6. Pardoning President Bush and Cabinet Members for violations of the War Crimes Act
Tucked into the MCA is also a provision that grants a blanket pardon to Bush and his cabinet officers for any crimes they may have committed with regard to the holding and torture of prisoners under the War Crimes Act of 1996.
7. The Supreme Court on 2001 Military Commissions
In June by a 5-3 vote the Supreme Court struck down the military commission set up by Bush/Rumsfeld in November 2001 to try enemy combatants. The Court ruled the commissions were not authorized by federal law, were not required by military necessity and ran afoul of the Geneva Accords. It ordered Bush to either operate military commissions by the rules of regular military court martials or ask Congress for guidance. The Military Commision Act of 2006 is the result of the "consultation" with Congress. Contrary to Shuster's view, most legal scholars believe it is not much better than the previous commissions and by doing away with habeas corpus is a great deal worse.
8. Summary: The Shuster ad is reminiscent of McCarthyism
I know this is a lot to absorb, but that's what makes this election so important. A LOT is at stake. The demagoguery that is in Shuster's ad, the tone of intimidation, the inference that anyone who disagrees with his views is not protecting the country are a threat to rational decision making in a democracy. That's the old McCarthyism of another era of fear and smear. We survived that, barely. Let's hope the voters give their repudiation of its latest manifestation next week.
Jack Hendricks, Communications Volunteer
Kathie Richardson, Research Volunteer
1 a Democratic staffer of the House Intelligence Committee has been "suspended" for being involved in the leak. The staffer denies his involvement, and the issue is under investigation.