Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Pace Jim Henley, we find news of an appellate ruling written by one Judge David Sentelle:

The Justice Department properly withheld the names and other details about hundreds of foreigners detained in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. The powerful decision was deferential to the Bush administration's arguments over continued threats to America from terrorists.

In a 2-1 ruling that represents a major victory for President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft, a panel from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia determined that disclosing such information could provide a roadmap of the government's Sept. 11 investigation for international terrorists.

Federal judges asked to compel such disclosures should defer to White House concerns that it might help the nation's enemies, the appeals panel said.

"America faces an enemy just as real as its former Cold War foes, with capabilities beyond the capacity of the judiciary to explore," wrote U.S. Circuit Judge David B. Sentelle. He said judges are "in an extremely poor position to second-guess the executive's judgment in this area of national security."

The modern age just can't wait for that musty old writ of habeas corpus.

Those with long memories may recall that the same Judge Sentelle, a Republican appointee, took a somewhat different view of second-guessing the executive when a Democrat was in the White House, and he was supervising a special prosecutor...

The war on terror, French style:

French authorities arrested on Tuesday more than 150 members of a long- established armed Iranian opposition group, accused them of organizing terrorist acts, and seized $1.3 million in $100 bills.

The move against the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People's Mujahedeen, as the group is known, effectively shut its operations in France, while the timing of the action sent conciliatory signals to Iran.

Most of the detainees were released almost immediately, an interesting contrast to events here in the States -- not that it prevented extreme forms of protest, including self-immolation.

Things would be different here in the States, of course. After all, this group is officially classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, and has an ideology based on an odd mix of Marxism and Islam. But that wouldn't necessarily get its members Ashcroft Justice. In fact, some folks in Washington from suggesting them as allies. I guess these are good terrorists.

As to the French, harboring Iranian dissidents is nothing new for them -- they harbored Khomeini for years. And now they're going after protestors -- against his heirs. Maybe they've learned something; maybe not...

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

American justice in the corporate age:

Two ... plaintiffs, Barbie Sanchez, 16, and Jennifer Velez, 17, who are longtime friends, said they visited the flagship store last Oct. 5 to exchange a pink blouse for Miss Sanchez's mother, but were unable to because they lacked a receipt. When the girls tried to leave, they say, security guards stopped them, grabbed their shopping bags and led them to Room 140.

The girls said they were pressured to say they had stolen the blouse and other clothing. After two hours, the girls said, a man told them to sign some forms or they would be "in more trouble."

They signed the forms. Soon, they received letters from a Florida law firm, retained by Macy's to collect on its behalf, seeking more than $400.

"If we shoplifted," Miss Velez asked in an interview, "why didn't they send a cop to pick us up? They think you have no rights."

Macy's, in fact, is acting under a New York State law which allows its rentacops to detain suspects without access to counsel, and demand penalties of up to five times the item is stolen. As to the safeguards in these procedures, they're, well... in dispute. For instance, management claims that racial profiling is utterly banned.

But the suit brought last month by Sharon Simmons-Thomas, and others, who are represented by Mr. Thompson, a partner at the Manhattan law firm of Thompson Wigdor & Gilly, paints a much more menacing picture.

The detention system is predatory and racially biased, Mr. Thompson claimed, with security guards using racial codes to alert one another that a minority shopper has entered an area.

The lawyers said that 13 current or former security officials at Macy's have assisted in the lawsuit. One former worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said he thought the store set quotas for how many people should be detained on a given day. "At one time they put the numbers on the walls," said the man, who worked at Herald Square and left in a dispute.

Other states have similar laws, by the way, though New York's is unusually strict. And the story is worth reading for just for the picture of Macy's security headquarters, which looks like a movie set...

Monday, June 16, 2003

Just as Dubya's invasion of Iraq was getting started, in the name of fighting Terror, his top NSC antiterrorist officer, Rand Beers, resigned. At the time he claimed personal reasons; now, having accepted a post as an anti-terrorism advisor to current Democratic front-runner, John Kerry, he's being more specific; he personally feels that Dubya's administration just isn't serious about fighting terrorism:

"The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."

Billmon has a lot more about this resignation and its implications, but it's worth taking a long look at a quote which both billmon and the WaPo bury at the bottom of their pieces:

"The first day, I came in fresh and eager," [Beers] said. "On the last day, I came home tired and burned out. And it only took seven months."

Part of that stemmed from his frustration with the culture of the White House. He was loath to discuss it. His wife, Bonnie, a school administrator, was not: "It's a very closed, small, controlled group. This is an administration that determines what it thinks and then sets about to prove it. There's almost a religious kind of certainty. There's no curiosity about opposing points of view. It's very scary. There's kind of a ghost agenda."

Now, whatever could that agenda be?

Update: More on Dubya's possible agenda, via Tristero...