ACLU slams Senators: The Constitution is not ‘optional’

Stephen C. Webster
Raw Story
Monday, January 25th, 2010

Four U.S. Senators are pursuing legislation they believe would fix the “mistake” President Obama made with the man who allegedly failed to blow up a Christmas Day flight into Detroit.

That “mistake” was treating him like a serious criminal, tossing him in jail and planning a trial.

Nevertheless, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Robert Bennett (R-UT) and John Ensign (R-NV) are pushing legislation that would require civilian authorities to consult with intelligence leaders when taking an accused terrorist into custody.

“[This] legislation would not deprive the President of any investigative tool,” Sen. Lieberman’s Web site claims. “It would not preclude a decision to charge a foreign terrorist in our military tribunal system or in our civilian criminal justice system.”

In a response, Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, fired back: “It is extremely disturbing that members of the U.S. Congress are essentially calling for Obama administration officials to discard the Constitution when a terrorist suspect is apprehended – as if the Constitution should be applied on a case by case basis.”

In the Lieberman press release, Sen. Ensign explained that he believes informing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of his Miranda rights before condemning him to possible life in prison is “as perplexing as it is dangerous.”

“This more clearly illustrates that this Administration is more concerned with gently prosecuting terrorists than it is with extracting important intelligence from them that would help prevent future attacks and protect the citizens of this country,” he claimed.

“Terrorism is a crime, and to treat terrorism that takes place far from any battlefield as an act of war is to propose that the entire world is a battlefield, to give criminals the elevated status of warriors and to invest whoever the current president may be with the authority to imprison a broad category of people potentially forever, without ever being afforded an opportunity to defend themselves,” noted ACLU’s Romero.

To abandon due process in terrorism cases turns the rule of law on its head and flies in the face of the values that we are fighting to protect in the first place. Our criminal justice system is fully capable of accommodating the government’s legitimate security interests while at the same time providing fundamental rights to defendants.”

This video was broadcast by ABC News on Jan. 3, 2010, as snipped by Talking Points Memo.

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