When neocons talk about the rate of “recidivism” among people released from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, you should probably keep in mind that “recidivism” may not be quite what you think. Specifically, one condition of release is not to disclose things like the interrogation methods used there. And so the actions included in those official “recidivism” statistics include the “terrorist activity” of seeking legal action against one’s torturers, or turning to anti-torture activism in a way that embarrasses the U. S. government. So a lot of the hardened terrorists who were allegedly released from Gitmo have turned to careers of “terrorism” consisting mainly of the major breech of etiquette, always unseemly in a guest, of airing their former hosts’ dirty laundry. Because you know, what happens in Gitmo, stays in Gitmo.
Just to make sure you have the rules down: Is waterboarding terrorism? Nah. Is torture terrorism? Not so much. Is talking about it terrorism? Damn straight!
That, or something like it, seems to be becoming a fairly popular meme. Liz Cheney, whose recent public speaking career seems to be a calculated ploy to make her dad seem less repulsive by comparison, says Justice Department lawyers who “represented detainees at Guantanamo, filed amicus briefs in detainee-related cases, or were involved in advocacy on behalf of detainees” before they joined the administration are Al Qaeda sympathizers, pure and simple. (Actually, sometimes I suspect Deadeye Dick was some kind of Manchurian Candidate groomed for office by Al Qaeda–he was certainly the answer to Bin Laden’s prayers.)
But wait! Before she can organize a necktie party, Liz may have to get in line behind Obama’s own justice department. According to Solicitor General Elena Kagan, arguing before the Supreme Court, a lawyer would commit a crime—material support for terrorism—by filing a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a terrorist group. So would anyone helping a terrorist group petition international bodies. (Presumably the “terrorist group”—what would have been called an “alleged terrorist group” before the Bill of Rights went down the memory hole—is so designated pursuant to the President’s power to declare any group “terrorist” by executive order, subjecting them to summary forfeiture of assets without due process of law.)
And what if the amicus brief or petition is in aid of a group trying to challenge its “terrorist” designation? Defenders of torture and irregular legal process against “terrorists” have already practically institutionalized the conceptual legerdemain by which the accusation of terrorism is sufficient evidence of guilt. But now we seem to be approaching a further stage in the degradation of all legal norms: not only is terrorism is so serious a crime that the bare accusation constitutes guilt; it’s so serious a crime that the denial of guilt is itself a crime!
With one major exception, the tendency for the past several decades has been for police statism to ratchet upward under both parties. The exception was the Church commission hearings and subsequent legislative restraints on executive power, passed in the atmosphere of public outrage and horror following the revelation of Richard Nixon’s abuses of power. Nixon’s abuses pale in comparison to those committed by Bush during his eight years in office. Somehow, I don’t think we’re going to get another Church Commission. That would be way too partisan and divisive.