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redeyechicago.com

Minority of One blog

Terrorists and the Constitution

Steve Chapman

4:44 PM CDT, April 19, 2013

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., proposes that if and when Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev is captured, he be held as an "enemy combatant" so he can be interrogated without the constitutional protections afforded to criminal suspects.

He's talking about an American citizen who would be arrested on American soil, not a Taliban fighter seized on a battlefield in Afghanistan. But Graham thinks our normal laws should be waived. Why? Because we might get some useful information that way.

But if getting useful information is the paramount consideration, why respect the Bill of Rights at all? Requiring police to get search warrants lets some criminals go free. Assuring defendants legal counsel prevents confessions.

Graham's proposal brings to mind the Bush administration's unconscionable treatment of accused "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla. He was held without trial in a Navy brig for more than three years, tortured, medicated, subjected to sensory deprivation and kept in solitary confinement -- and eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. In the end, he was turned over for criminal prosecution and conviction.

It's strange to think that if Adam Lanza had been captured after killing 27 people, no senator would have thought it appropriate to violate his constitutional rights. But because Tsarnaev is accused of terrorism (which killed far fewer people), some people want to throw out all safeguards.

The Constitution was not meant to be enforced only when it's convenient. The government has an obligation to give even a suspected bomber the right to be silent and the right to consult a lawyer. That's called the rule of law. Senators are supposed to uphold it.