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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Posner Weighs in

Judge Posner has a lot to say about counter-terrorism methods in the US. For those of you who don't know, Judge Posner is a sitting judge on the 7th Circuit United States Court of Appeals.

Basically Judge Posner is recommending that the US create a counter-terrorism unit similar to Britain's MI-5. Because MI-5's main responsibility is counter-terrorism, not crime prevention, and they can hold a suspect for 28 days w/o a judicial hearing, Judge Posner believes they are more effective against terrorism. The FBI can hold a suspect for more than 48 hours, but only in extraordinary circumstances.

While I do not agree with everything Judge Posner says, the idea of allowing authorities to hold a terror suspect for an extended period of time may have some merit (I can just see the entire left side of the political spectrum calling for me head right now). I do not mean indefinitely, but a period of time similar to Britain. Again, this would ONLY be for terrorist activity, activity that is very hard to prove unless something has actually happened, hence the difficulty under our legal system. I would also want to include some heavy civil sanctions against the detaining agency for wrongful detainment. We do not want the federal government picking up Muslims off the street just to try and pump them for information when the Feds have no reason to believe they are involved in terrorism. Stiff civil penalties would help alleviate the chances of this happening (though admittedly, not eliminate). However, as most people know, theory and practice are two different things. While in theory it may not be so bad, I would be fearful that we would start having people disappear into black vans on the street. The authorization to do this would have to be clear and unambiguous with significant monitoring and oversight. While I am not saying we should start doing this tomorrow to prevent terrorism, it is something we might want to have serious conversation between the opposing sides beyond, "You are wrong, we are right."

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of things I don't agree with Judge Posner on. One in particular is the end of his column where he appears to be saying that we should presume Muslim Americans are intent on attacking us until proven otherwise. That is a scary thing to imply. Maybe it is just me, but thoughts like that lead to things like the Japanese Internment camps and what happened in The Siege. Yes we need to balance civil liberties and protection from terrorism, but as soon as we start making people think all Muslims are terrorist we start breeding mistrust and hate which in turn would create more terrorists.