Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Hornberger’s Blog, April 2007

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Is Tenet a “True Patriot?”

Former CIA Director George Tenet is upsetting the Washington establishment with insider revelations about the Iraq War in his new book . In the book, Tenet discloses that Bush and Cheney were fixated on regime change in Iraq long before 9/11.

Duh! Isn’t that what we’ve been saying here at FFF from the get-go — that the war on Iraq had nothing to do with WMDS, mushroom clouds, UN resolutions, democracy-spreading, and liberation? Those were just the cover stories that Bush and Cheney used to market the war to the American people. After all, how would Americans have reacted if Bush and Cheney had simply announced the truth: “Since more than 10 years of sanctions have failed to achieve regime change in Iraq, we have decided to invade to take out Saddam Hussein and replace him with a U.S.-approved dictator”?

Critics are taking Tenet to task for not having resigned his position in protest and taken the side of the anti-war crowd. They’re missing a big point, however. If Tenet had failed to adopt the “my government, right or wrong” mindset, the White House would not have considered him to be a “true patriot,” which is the term they’re still applying to Tenet despite his revelations, and would not have awarded him the “Medal of Freedom.”

The way that Bush and Cheney see it is that discussion and debate prior to a war are fine, both within the government and the country, but once the president decides on war it is the duty of the “true patriot” to get on board with the decision and “support the troops.” Isn’t that what Colin Powell and, in fact, many Americans in the private sector, including even church ministers and priests, did? Weren’t those who failed to “get on board” by continuing to oppose the war considered to be near-traitors who hated their country?

Of course, Bush, Cheney, and Tenet, along with their conservative and neo-conservative supporters, have it all wrong. The genuine patriot is the one who refuses to blindly support his government even in matters dealing with war, reaches an independent determination as to the rightness or wrongness of a particular war, and then makes a principled stand against the war if he concludes that his government (and its troops) is in the wrong. And he expresses his opposition consistently prior to the war, during the war, after the war, and during the occupation. That is, he doesn’t wait until after the war has turned unpopular, and after there has been massive death and destruction, to start trying to sell books that reveal what he lacked the courage to reveal when it really mattered.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Invasions and Walls are Contrary to Our Heritage

Walls are in the news, given the giant walls that President Bush is constructing inside Baghdad and along the U.S. southern border, prompting some op-ed writers to remind Bush of what President Reagan told Russian President Gorbachev, “Tear down this wall!”

Not surprisingly, the increased intensity by which the war on immigrants is now being waged is causing more unforeseen perverse results. As increased enforcement and higher penalties have taken effect, the federal courts have become flooded with immigration cases. This, in turn, is causing people to call for an increase in federal judges, which of course will then lead to more federal courtrooms, clerks, secretaries, interpreters, overcrowded prisons, more prison personnel, and so forth. In other words, more increases in out-of-control federal spending, taxation, and inflation. Of course, we’ve seen the same unintended perverse results in the war on drugs for decades.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. isn’t the only country erecting walls. The federal government’s invasion of Iraq has caused 4 million Iraqis to flee their homes. Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, is building a $7 billion border wall to keep Iraqis out. Kuwait has totally shut its border. Syria, whose regime U.S. officials hate, has taken in 1.2 million Iraqis. Jordan has let in 750,000.

And then there is the United States, whose government invaded Iraq because U.S. officials love the Iraqi people and only want to make life better and freer for them. How many Iraqis have U.S. officials let in to the United States since Bush’s invasion? The grand total — are you sitting down? — of 500. Yes, only five hundred people!

As Americans make increasing demands for withdrawal from Iraq, more people are beginning to worry about the Quislings — that is, those Iraqis who have cooperated with the illegal invader and occupier. As we have long been pointing out, those people are not likely to receive nice treatment once the U.S. withdraws (which is another good reason why Bush should never have invaded in the first place). Does that mean that the U.S. will open a breach in its immigration walls to permit these people to emigrate to the United States? Don’t count on it. U.S. officials love the Iraqis enough to sanction, invade, and occupy their country, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of them and destroying their country, but not enough to let them escape retaliatory death by simply letting them come to the U.S.

Our ancestors had it right — prohibit the federal government from going abroad “in search of monsters to destroy,” build a model society of freedom here at home for the world to marvel at, and open our borders to provide sanctuary for those escaping tyranny and oppression abroad. Why do modern-day Americans continue running away from our own heritage of freedom and free markets and embracing the invasion/wall philosophy of the rest of the world?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The CIA and the Kennedy Assassinations

It turns out that the U.S. military is not the only governmental institution that has been lying (that is, with its made-up accounts of the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman matters). There is also the CIA, the paramilitary organization whose activities and budget have long been the most secretive part of the U.S. government’s operations.

A lawsuit was recently filed against the CIA to force the agency to disclose information about a CIA agent named George Joannides and specifically his role in events leading up to the assassination of John Kennedy. It is now clear that Joannides, who died in 1990, knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally misled official investigators about the role he played in the Kennedy matter. Even more interesting, the CIA today is fighting fiercely to prevent its files about Joannides’s deception from coming to public light, even though Joannides’ deception occurred more than 25 years ago.

Supporters of the lawsuit include Gerald Posner, who is one of the most prominent anti-conspiracy proponents in the JFK murder, G. Robert Blakey, the former chief counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and John Turheim, a federal judge who served as chairman of the Assassinations Records Review Board in the 1990s.

Prior to the Kennedy assassination, Joannides’s job was to funnel CIA money ($25,000 a month, equivalent to $147,000 today) to an anti-Castro group named the Cuban Student Directorate (DRE). Lee Harvey Oswald had approached the group in New Orleans and offered his services. A few days later, however, Oswald was openly picketing in favor of Castro, when DRE members confronted him and made a big public display of the confrontation, even challenging Oswald to debate on the radio.

No one knows what Joannides’s reaction to all this was because he never disclosed it to the Warren Commission or Kennedy assassination investigators. The CIA says tha his action reports from 1963 have gone missing from CIA archives. What we do know, however, is that available records reflect that Joannides received high praise in 1963 from his superiors.

When the House Select Committee on Assassinations opened an investigation into the Kennedy murder in 1978, the CIA called Joannides out of retirement to serve as the CIA’s liaison to work with the House Committee. What he did instead, secretly and surreptitiously, was to impede the house’s investigation by knowingly keeping his role with the DRE secret. As Jefferson Morley stated in his fascinating Salon.com article on this subject (on which this blog is based), “He withheld all records concerning his relationship with the DRE, even when they were specifically requested, according to a log that he kept. The log is now in the National Archives.” As Don Hardway, an attorney who served as one of Blakey’s investigators in 1978, told Morley, “Now there is no doubt in my mind that Joannides deliberately hid evidence of an assassination conspiracy from us.”

Even more interesting, BBC reporter Shane O’Sullivan reported last November that he had uncovered photographic evidence of Joannides, along with two other CIA agents, at the Ambassador Hotel on the night that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Since the CIA has no jurisdiction in domestic affairs, it is still unclear what Joannides and his CIA cohorts would have been doing there that night.

Of course, no doubt that the CIA has a ready answer to all of this: “National security. Now butt out!”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cindy Sheehan’s Question

Despite the high walls that the U.S. military is now constructing in Baghdad as part of its plan to convert the city into numerous “gated communities” to keep “the terrorists” at bay, April has turned out to be the deadliest month of the year for U.S. troops in Iraq — 82 killed so far. Isn’t it once again time to reprise Cindy Sheehan’s question to President Bush, which still remains unanswered: What are U.S. soldiers in Iraq dying for?

After all, the president cannot seriously claim that those 82 troops died in the search for weapons of mass destruction, for Iraqi freedom, or for Iraqi democracy. There are only two possibilities left: (1) to “stabilize” the Iraqi regime, and (2) to preserve President Bush’s legacy.

Okay, there is a third possibility — to kill “the terrorists.” But except for Vice President Cheney, everyone knows that before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there was no terrorist threat from Iraq. By invading and killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the U.S. military effectively converted a nation of non-terrorists into a nation of terrorists, a situation that U.S. officials say now requires the U.S. military to stay in Iraq to kill the terrorists that its invasion has produced. Never mind that killing more terrorists only incites more Iraqis (and others in the Middle East) to become terrorists, which then requires the U.S. military to continue occupying Iraq and the Middle East in order to kill the terrorists.

Ask yourself: Would you be willing to give your life for any of this nonsense? (If so, then the obvious question arises: What are you doing here instead of being over there?) Would you be willing to sacrifice your spouse, siblings, or children for it?

The other immoral part of all this, of course, is the killing of the Iraqi people, many of whom are doing nothing more than trying to rid their nation of an illegal occupier, something that at least some American men and women would do if the U.S. were ever invaded and occupied by a foreign power.

The important point here is that even if the U.S. government was able to establish a “stable” regime in Iraq, the U.S. government had neither the moral nor the legal authority to attack and wage a war of aggression against a country that had not attacked the United States, not even to establish a “stable,” U.S.-approved regime. Since the U.S. had no right to invade Iraq, it also has no right to be occupying Iraq and, thus, no right to be killing even one single Iraqi as part of that invasion and occupation.

My answer to Cindy Sheehan’s question remains the same as when the first U.S. soldier and the first Iraqi were killed: U.S. troops in Iraq are dying for nothing and they’re also wrongfully killing the Iraqi people.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Anti-Immigrant Fervor Is Alive and Well in Russia Too

In a move that would make any anti-immigrant American proud, the Russian government has issued a decree banning immigrants from selling produce in Russian outdoor markets. Many of the market stalls are now empty and the outdoor markets themselves have been sapped of the vibrancy, energy, and high-quality food that immigrants brought to them.

The purpose of the ban is to protect Russian producer sellers from the competition of immigrants. As one person told the New York Times, “In the street there is hate for immigrants.”

Never mind that ever since the old Soviet Union, when states stores were selling putrid food, the food sold by immigrants in outdoor markets has always been high-quality and fresh. And never mind that the immigrants were offering Russian consumers a wider range of food products. What matters now is protecting Russian produce sellers from competition. Or as an official government advertisement put it, “Farmers from the Fatherland.”

New York Times reporter Eleanor Randolph stated, “This huge nation, which is losing population, needs to find a way to welcome ambitious newcomers instead of excluding them. Russia’s fate, like its empty market stalls, is to grow insular and gray without bringing in these vibrant people and their exotic wares.”

Insular and gray indeed. It’s a characteristic that describes any stagnating society that is preventing immigrants from entering the country to provide consumers with high-quality, inexpensive goods and services in the marketplace.

Meanwhile, those anti-immigrant officials within the Russian government who imposed the agricultural ban on Russian immigrants are undoubtedly empathizing with American anti-immigrant types who conducted a demonstration on the steps of the Capitol yesterday to persuade U.S. officials to protect Americans from the competition of immigrants from Mexico.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, April 23, 2007

National Security and Seung-Hui Cho

Imagine if the U.S. government suddenly announced that all investigatory files in the Virginia Tech massacre were going to be closed from public inspection because of national security. The ban would include background investigations of the killer Seung-Hui Cho and all official interviews with witnesses. The federal order would mandate that all files and documents would remain top secret for 75 years, after which they would be open for inspection and viewing by Americans living at that time — at least those files and documents that had not been lost or destroyed within those 7 1/2 decades.

If that were actually to happen, wouldn’t you be a bit suspicious about what the heck was going on? Why would the national security of the United States turn on revealing the results of the investigation into the actions of a lone, crazed gunman who just killed a bunch of innocent people? Wouldn’t you consider such an order to be rather unusual, perhaps even a bit bizarre?

Yet, isn’t that exactly what happened in the John F. Kennedy assassination? In principle, how was Lee Harvey Oswald any different from Cho? Aren’t they both described as lone, crazed gunmen who committed murder? Sure, in the Oswald case the victim was the president of the United States while in Cho’s case, the victims are several Virginia Tech students, but in principle why should that make a difference? Why should national security turn on the investigation into a murder suspect’s conduct when the victim is a federal official any more than it does when the victims are private citizens? How would a full disclosure of Oswald’s role in JFK’s murder at the time of the murder have affected national security any more than a full disclosure of Cho’s role in the Virginia Tech murders affect national security today? Indeed, why are federal officials still resisting the disclosure to the American people of files and documents relating to the JFK murder almost 45 years after the murder?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Sanctity of Iraqi Life

President Bush recently delivered two interesting speeches. According to the New York Times, in a talk at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, “Bush invoked the powerful imagery of the Holocaust on Wednesday to intensify pressure on Sudan, warning that the United States would impose stiff economic sanctions and seek others from the United Nations if President Omar Hassan al-Bashir does not bring a quick end to the brutal violence in Darfur.”

Bush’s other talk was to the fourth annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Addressing a crowd that included Catholic priests and the bishop of the Arlington, Virginia, Diocese, Bush said, “We must continue to work for a culture of life — where the strong protect the weak, and where we recognize in every human life the image of our Creator.”

Unfortunately, it seems that none of the people in either audience asked Bush to reconcile his remarks with what the U.S. government has done to the people of Iraq. Consider the number of Iraqi people killed by the U.S. government since the U.S. broke off its partnership with Saddam Hussein in 1990: an estimated 600,000 in Bush’s war and invasion, an estimated 300,000 Iraqi children during the sanctions period (although U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright didn’t dispute the estimate of half-a-million when she stated that the deaths of the Iraqi children were “worth it”), and an estimated 100,000 deaths in the Persian Gulf War, for a total of some 900,000 Iraqi dead.

That’s almost 1/6 the number of people killed in the Holocaust! That is not a small number of dead Iraqi people. And on top of that are the hundreds of thousands of injured and maimed Iraqis.

Wouldn’t you think that people who are strongly committed to the sanctity of human life would have as much commitment to Iraqi life as to American life? Aren’t Iraqi people created in the image of God as much as Americans are? Why didn’t those hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi people have the same right to live their lives out naturally as Americans do? Under what moral authority did the U.S. government engage in an operation that ended up snuffing out the lives of so many Iraqi people?

Apparently none of the Catholic priests at the breakfast chose to ask Bush those questions. Perhaps it’s because many of them have “patriotically” supported the Iraq War and subsequent occupation, regardless of how many Iraqis have been killed.

For example, consider the pro-war stance of Catholic theologian George Wiegel, whose pro-war articles have been printed in the Arlington Catholic Herald, the official newspaper of the Arlington diocese. Weigel steadfastly maintains that Bush’s war and occupation are justified under Catholic just-war theory. But if Weigel is right (and there are many Catholic theologians who say he’s not), then I say that the Catholic just-war theory is in desperate need of being abandoned by Catholics as a guide to war, given that it would be difficult to find a better example of a war of aggression, a type of war crime punished at Nuremberg, than Bush’s war on Iraq.

The Catholic priests had an excellent opportunity to confront Bush directly with his wrongdoing in Iraq, ask him to confess his sin and to repent the wrongful killing and maiming of so many Iraqi people. Unfortunately, unable to muster the courage and moral fortitude that the late Pope John Paul II reflected in opposing Bush’s invasion of Iraq prior to the invasion, the Catholic priests, while reaffirming their commitment to the sanctity of human life, decided to remain mute on the deaths of almost a million Iraqis.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Congressional Muteness on CIA Crimes

As we continue to witness congressional attention, outrage, subpoenas, investigation, and action over the U.S. Attorney scandal, it helps to remind us that Congress could have been doing the same thing about the things that the CIA has been doing at least since 9/11, including kidnapping, torture, rendition, secret prisons, extra-judicial executions, and who knows what else. Instead, Congress has remained mute about the dirty war that the CIA has been conducting ever since 9/11 and possibly before.

Why is it that when it comes to the CIA, Congress goes silent? Would congressmen remain mute if the Russian secret police were doing the same sorts of things the CIA is doing?

In fact, while we’re on the subject of U.S. Attorneys, have you noticed that not one single federal prosecutor has sought federal criminal indictments against CIA agents for the criminal acts they have committed against people overseas? After all, if German and Italian prosecutors can indict CIA agents for kidnapping and conspiracy to torture, why can’t U.S. prosecutors do the same?

Or is it that under American law, as in Chinese, North Korean, and Cuban law, the nation’s secret police are not only above the law but actually the law itself? Could that be why both Congress and the nation’s U.S. Attorneys remain mute and paralyzed when faced with criminal conduct by agents of the CIA?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Confronting Irrational Fears and U.S. Foreign Policy

Here at The Future of Freedom Foundation, we continue to receive correspondence in which people express deep fear that the world’s billion or so Muslims are planning to invade, conquer, and occupy the United States.

This is just plain irrational thinking.

First, in order to invade and conquer the United States, an invader would need hundreds of thousands of ships, planes, tanks, personnel carriers, millions of soldiers, and then the ability to keep supplies running to occupation troops who would surely face an armed American insurgency across the entire United States. Those things are non-existent. No one in the world, not even the Chinese or the Russians, has the military capability of invading, much less conquering the United States. After all, don’t forget that the Nazi military was not even able to cross the English Channel to invade England. Don’t forget also that Allied troops at D-Day didn’t invade France by crossing the Atlantic. They invaded by crossing the English Channel, which even then entailed a massive operation.

Second, most Muslims have absolutely no interest in invading and conquering the United States. Even the small minority of fanatical ones (e.g., al Qaeda) simply want the U.S. Empire out of the Middle East. The Swiss, who share many of the Western values that Americans do, aren’t pacing the floor in fear of a Muslim invasion because the Swiss government is not sanctioning, invading, occupying, and regime-changing in the Middle East. Of course, it’s true that some of the fanatics are likely to retaliate for the U.S. government’s conduct in the Middle East with terrorist attacks, like they did with the 1993 terrorist attack on the WTC and the 9/11 attacks, but periodic terrorist retaliation is the risk that comes with a pro-empire, pro-interventionist foreign policy; it’s a far cry from invasion, conquest, and occupation.

Third, a brief review of history helps confront the irrationality of such fears. During the 1980s, when the Reagan-Bush administration was partnering with Saddam Hussein and the U.S. was furnishing him with those WMDs, Americans weren’t afraid of the Muslims. And when the federal government was partnering with the Shah of Iran throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, Americans weren’t afraid of the Muslims. And when our government was partnering with Osama bin Laden in their joint efforts to end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Americans weren’t afraid of the Muslims. So every person who suffers from these fears today should ask himself: Why all the fear today and not then?

My hunch is that irrational fears are simply way to avoid confronting the central problem — that deep down, Americans know that by invading and occupying Iraq, the U.S. government has continued the same foreign policy that motivated the 1993 terrorist attacks on the WTC and the 9/11 attacks and, therefore, that the longer such policy continues, the greater the likelihood of more terrorist blowback here on American soil.

If we’re ever going to restore freedom to America and a sense of balance to our lives, it is necessary to confront irrational fears directly. As the late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck pointed out in his book The Road Less Traveled, mental health involves an unwavering commitment to reality at all costs.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Murderers Don’t Obey Gun Laws

With the massacre at Virginia Tech, we are once again reminded, in another horrific way, that murderers don’t obey gun restrictions. Virginia Tech, a government college, prohibits its students from bringing guns onto campus. The mass murderer who shot and killed 32 students yesterday and injured others obviously gave as much a hoot for Virginia Tech’s gun-control restriction as he did for Virginia’s laws against murder. Moreover, because of Virginia Tech’s gun-control regulation, the murderer walked onto campus with the confidence that this was a “gun-free zone” — that is, one in which not one single student would be armed and, therefore, able to defend himself and the other students by taking the murderer out. The Virginia Tech massacre is just another tragic example of how gun-control restrictions put peaceful, law-abiding citizens at risk of their lives at the hands of mass murderers who don’t give a hoot about such restrictions.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Measuring the Success of “the Surge”

Amidst all the talk among President Bush and 2008 presidential candidates as to whether “the surge” in Iraq will “succeed” or not, we should never lose sight of one important thing: The U.S. government had no moral or legal right to invade and occupy Iraq.

In this conflict, the U.S. is the aggressor nation and Iraq is the defending nation, given that Iraq never attacked the U.S. or even threatened to do so. Keep in mind also that waging a war of aggression was punished as a war crime at Nuremberg. Keep in mind also that the war was illegal under our form of government because the president never secured the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war.

So, what do Bush and his cohorts mean by “success” in Iraq. They mean killing a sufficient number of Iraqis to cow the rest of the Iraqi people to finally submit to the regime that the U.S. invasion has brought into power. Bush wants the Iraqis to submit to U.S. power just as, say, the people of Panama, Grenada, Haiti, and others who have been the victim of U.S. regime-change operations have submitted to U.S. power.

The reason that there are Iraqis who continue to resist the occupation is twofold: (1) They don’t believe that a regime that is the product of a wrongful invasion is legitimate, and (2) No one likes an occupier. The situation would be similar if a foreign country were ever to invade, win, and occupy the U.S. There would undoubtedly be Quisling Americans who would cooperate with the occupiers while there would be other Americans who would be fighting to oust the occupier. (Recall the movie “Red Dawn” for a fictional account of this type of situation.)

Keep in mind also that intervention in Iraq (i.e., the Persian Gulf intervention and the subsequent brutal sanctions that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children) was one of the precipitating causes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Therefore, since the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq has been just more of the same foreign policy that led to 9/11, it would not be surprising that there would be more blowback terrorist attacks in retaliation. Of course, if that were to happen, U.S. officials would simply repeat their pre-9/11 story — that the terrorists have struck because they hate America for its “freedom and values.”

Meanwhile, the dollar continues to plunge in international markets, an economic phenomenon we have long predicted here at FFF as a direct consequence of out-of-control federal spending, including on Iraq. Of course, advocates of the occupation will undoubtedly blame the plunge on speculators, profiteers, OPEC, illegal aliens, and drug dealers rather than take individual responsibility for monetary debacles arising out of excessive federal spending.

In fact, it could well be that we’re facing a perfect storm of federal disasters on the horizon, especially given that there are so many critical federal programs in crisis — Social Security, the dollar, Iraq, the war on immigrants, the drug war, education, healthcare, the IRS and income taxation, and terrorism. Of course, only when Americans finally realize that the federal socialist and interventionist policies are the center of the cancer afflicting our body politic can we begin treating the cancer and restoring a free, healthy, and prosperous society to our land.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, April 13, 2007

“Enemy Combatants” in the Drug War

After 9/11, Americans meekly acquiesced to the legal revolution that U.S. officials effected, a revolution that actually is larger in magnitude and more threatening to freedom than the economic revolution effected by President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

What the feds did after 9/11 was take what had long been a federal criminal offense — terrorism — and declared “war” on it. They converted ordinary criminal defendants into “enemy combatants” who were subject to being taken into custody by the military, tortured and abused, and held for life or even executed. What many frightened Americans did not realize at the time that they were acquiescing to this revolution was that Americans, not just foreigners, would also be subject to be treated as “enemy combatants” by the military.

Not only did that revolution, for the first time in American history, upend the traditional relationship between military and civilian, it also has now provided the precedent for carrying the “enemy combatant” doctrine to other federal criminal offenses. And the most likely one involves drug violations, which, like terrorism, have long been a federal criminal offense.

Consider what drug gangs are already doing in Mexico. They’re waging a vicious and violent war that entails the killing of police officers and government officials.

Suppose that type of war is carried over into the United States, where drug agents, drug cops, judges, and prosecutors are being shot and government buildings are being bombed by drug gangs.

Given the precedent established in terrorism cases, one can easily imagine, in the midst of fear, panic, and anger, U.S. officials declaring (once again) a federal “war on drugs” that would entail applying the “enemy combatant” doctrine used in terrorism cases to drug cases. This is especially true given that drugs are a major means by which terrorists around the world are funding their operations.

What would that mean for Americans? It would mean the same thing as it does today with respect to terrorism but would obviously expand the ease by which the military could take Americans into military custody by labeling them “enemy combatants.” Those drug-war “enemy combatants” would be subject to military control by the Pentagon just as war-on terror “enemy combatants” now are.

Those who innocently say, “That could never happen in America,” should be reminded that that’s what Americans said with respect to terrorism prior to 9/11. It’s not a coincidence that Ramzi Yousef, who committed the terrorist bombing of the WTC in 1993, was indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced in federal district court. Prior to 9/11 terrorism constituted a federal crime with criminal defendants, not an act of war with “enemy combatants.” Yet, after 9/11 the Pentagon acquired the option of treating people like Yousef as “enemy combatants.”

The sad part of this is that there would be a number of Americans who would react as passively as they did to the legal revolution with respect to terrorism. When people treasure “safety” over freedom, they’re willing to accept any government measures that they think will keep them safe. Their credo could easily be: “Give me safety and preserve my life. Nothing else matters.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Military Trumping of the Padilla Jury

The Jose Padilla trial begins on Monday. As most everyone knows, this is a jury trial, which means that 12 ordinary people in the Miami area will be deciding whether Padilla is guilty or not of the terrorism charges that he has been indicted for.

What is important for everyone to recognize is the magnitude of the legal revolution that has taken place in the United States, post 9/11, with respect to what happens if the jury returns a verdict of not guilty.

Ever since the founding of the United States and prior to 9/11, if a person was acquitted in a federal criminal case, he would be immediately released from the government’s custody as soon as the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The jury’s verdict had always been considered final. The judge had no choice but to immediately order the release of the defendant, who would walk out of the courtroom a free man immediately after the jury foreman announced two words: “Not Guilty.”

After 9/11, the law changed by virtue of orders issued by the president and the Pentagon. Announcing a “war on terrorism,” the president and the Pentagon declared that all people accused of terrorism, including Americans, would henceforth be considered “enemy combatants” and thereby be subjected to what amounted to perpetual military incarceration without trial. That declaration was ultimately ratified by the congressionally enacted Military Commissions Act.

As a result of those actions, if Padilla is acquitted by a jury of his peers, that still doesn’t mean that he will be released from government custody. At that point, despite a jury verdict of “Not Guilty,” the Pentagon has the option of taking Padilla back into custody as an “enemy combatant” and continue imprisoning him for the rest of his life.

The significance of this post-9/11 legal revolution is threefold:

(1) For centuries, the finality of a jury’s verdict has been considered an essential part of the freedom of the American people. That’s in fact why our American ancestors included the right to trial by jury in the Bill of Rights. It’s one of the things that have distinguished Americans from most of the rest of the world;

(2) The loss of finality to the jury’s verdict is part of the bundle of rights and freedoms that Americans traded away in return for “safety” from “the terrorists” after 9/11; and

(3) Everything federal officials, including those in the Pentagon, are doing to Padilla, they also have the authority to do all Americans.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Jose Padilla and the Pentagon’s Power to Torture Americans

The presiding judge in the Jose Padilla case, Marcia Cooke, has denied Padilla’s pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment based on the government’s torture and abuse of him during the 3 years that the U.S. military held him in custody as an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terror.” Judge Cooke would not even permit an evidentiary hearing in which military officials would be required to testify on what they did to Padilla. The judge held that the law does not permit her to dismiss criminal charges no matter what they did to Padilla.

Keep in mind that Padilla is their test case. The legal principles that apply to him apply to all Americans.

The judge announced that if the government tries to introduce any incriminatory statements or confessions that Padilla during military custody, she will then permit the defense to raise the issue of torture in a motion to suppress the statements.

However, the government has told the judge that it will not be using such statements, thereby obviating any need to delve into the torture allegations with an evidentiary hearing. Yet, interestingly, at the same time the government is denying that it ever tortured Padilla.

Ask yourself: Why would the government voluntarily suppress the statements of one of the most dangerous terrorists of our time, one that Attorney General John Ashcroft said was planning to blow up a nuclear bomb in an American city? Does that make sense to you? When was the last time you saw the government voluntarily suppressing incriminatory statements made by any criminal defendant, much less a nuclear-bomb wielding terrorist? If they didn’t torture him, as they claim, then why suppress his confessions and incriminatory statements?

Well, the government claims that it’s not because the military tortured Padilla and it’s not because they’re they don’t want to let Americans know what they did to him. The reason the government says it is voluntarily suppressing Padilla’s statements is — are you ready? — because they U.S. military officials didn’t read him his Miranda warnings while he was in military custody!

So, on the one hand, they’re saying that the “war on terror” is a real war involving “enemy combatants,” and, on the other hand, they’re saying that they’re required to read the Miranda warnings to enemy combatants in wartime.

Is that a hoot or what? At least these guys are sometimes good for comic relief!

As I have been repeatedly emphasizing, the Pentagon now wields the power to take Americans into custody as “enemy combatants,” imprison them for life, torture them, and punish them. That was the legal revolution that took place when Americans, out of fear, traded away our freedom for “safety” after 9/11.

Don’t blame Judge Cooke. As a federal judge, her job is not to make the law. Her job is simply to interpret it.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Federal-Court Trials vs. Military Kangaroo Courts

The Jose Padilla case will provide Americans with a good education as to how the federal-court system operates in terrorism cases compared to the Pentagon’s post-9/11 “judicial” system in Cuba.

In a federal criminal case, the jury ordinarily consists of 12 regular American citizens chosen at random.

Beginning with a super-large pool of prospective jurors, the judge eliminates all those prospective jurors who are biased or prejudiced. This produces a large panel from which the final jury is selected.

Ordinarily, the defense has the right to strike 10 jurors from the list and the prosecution has the right to strike 6. The reason the defense gets more of these “preemptory challenges” is that the federal courts begin with the presumption that the accused is innocent and, therefore, is to be given more protection.

To ensure that Padilla is judged by a fair and impartial jury, the presiding judge has made an unusual exception on the number of these “preemptory” challenges. She is granting an extraordinarily high number of preemptory challenges to both sides—36 for the defense and 30 for the government. The goal is to end up with 12 independent and disinterested jurors who will hopefully decide the case solely on the evidence.

The jury’s verdict is controlling. If it acquits Padilla, the judge does not have the power to disregard the verdict. The jurors won’t lose their job over their decision. They will simply return to their regular lives. Padilla will go free. (It should be pointed out, however, that the Pentagon is reserving the authority to disregard the juror’s verdict and retake Padilla into custody as an “enemy combatant,” which is another post-9/11 military power over the citizenry akin to that exercised in the old Soviet Union.)

Compare the federal-court system to the Gitmo military system. At Gitmo, the judge and jurors are all military personnel and, thus, all answerable to their superiors in the Pentagon and ultimately to the president. For all practical purposes, there is no possibility of a fair and impartial trial, given that the judge and the jurors are all members of the military, the organization that arrested and brought the suspects to justice. They all have a vested interest in seeing that “the terrorists” are punished. (Imagine if FBI officials were serving as the judge and jury in the Padilla case.). At Gitmo, the presumption is of guilt, not innocence. The military officials who will ultimately serve as judges and jurors will be convinced the Gitmo prisoners are all guilty, no-good terrorists. The judge and the jurors also will know that their military careers will turn on their verdict because an acquittal of a suspected terrorist whom the president and the Pentagon have held in custody for 5 years, and even tortured and sexually abused, would obviously embarrass and humiliate the president and the Pentagon.

The reason that the president and the Pentagon set up their “judicial” system in Cuba was because of the contempt they hold for America’s federal-court system and its centuries-old right of trial by jury. As the Padilla case unfolds in federal court and as the Pentagon’s kangaroo trials unfold in Cuba, Americans will have an excellent opportunity to see why civil liberties were so important to our American ancestors, as especially reflected in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, April 9, 2007

James Bond and the Iranians

British officials are saying that the confessions by those British soldiers taken captive by Iranian forces were false and invalid because the Iranians coerced the soldiers into confessing.

How did the Iranians do that?

By separating the soldiers from each other, threatening them with a 7-year jail sentence, cocking a pistol behind them, and holding them in custody for several days. According to a video released by Iran, the soldiers were also forced to play ping pong and backgammon against each other.

Okay, fair enough. Even James Bond might have buckled under that type of pressure. Perhaps even Jack Bauer!

But what I can’t understand is this: Given that the British confessions were coerced and, therefore, invalid, why are the confessions and statements extracted by U.S. forces with waterboarding (i.e., forced drowning), sex abuse, hooding, forced sensory deprivation for years, beatings, threats of execution, indefinite incarceration, and threats of violence against family members considered valid?

It all just doesn’t seem very cricket, not even in an empire.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Minuteman Founder Gilchrist Cuts and Runs from Debate

The debate between the founder of the Minuteman Project, Jim Gilchrist, and me over open borders that was scheduled for last Thursday at Pomona College got cancelled because Gilchrist backed out at the last minute.

His excuse for withdrawing from the match? Well, according to Pomona’s student newspaper, “The Student Life,” Gilchrist withdrew from the debate because he was upset over a March 9 article that the newspaper had published about the debate which apparently was critical of him. Gilchrist complained to the Student Union, which organized the debate, about the “tyrannical, anti-freedom of speech mentalities” that he said are in place on American college campuses.

On the night the debate was supposed to take place, Gilchrist went on Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly Show where, according to the newspaper, he expressed his concern that Pomona College might have an “anarchist mentality.”

Here are the two newspaper articles on the controversy:

Immigration Debate Delayed, PSU Apologizes to Community

PSU Rescinds Speaking Offer to Gilchrist

It’s too bad that Gilchrist’s fear of an adverse audience reaction to his anti-immigrant positions caused him to cut and run from the debate. These Minutemen certainly don’t seem to have the courage that the people who they’re named after did.

After all, the original Minutemen had the courage to stand up against their own government partly because their government was restricting immigration, which is why they enumerated that grievance in the Declaration of Independence. The new “Minutemen” support their government’s war on immigrants and even rat to its agents on immigrants who are illegally coming to America to sustain and improve their lives through labor.

As federal programs that are beloved to conservatives, including Social Security, Medicare, Iraq, foreign policy, the dollar, the war on drugs, the war on immigrants, and the war on illiteracy, continue to spiral downward into moral and economic bankruptcy, conservatives do what others in history have done in similar circumstances — they look for scapegoats on which they can vent their frustration and ire. The most convenient scapegoat, of course, is immigrants, especially illegal ones, because people like Gilchrist know that they can’t defend themselves.

So, when confronted with someone who is ready and able to defend the immigrants and take Gilchist on, he runs for the hills or, more precisely, toward the open arms of fellow conservatives, such as Bill O’Reilly, where his silly and intellectually baseless arguments are not in jeopardy of being seriously challenged.

After Gilchrist’s insults against Pomona College, the Student Union announced that it would not invite him back, which is probably what Gilchrist wanted anyway, given his fear of those dangerous “anarchists” at Pomona. That’s too bad though because as I told the student newspaper, if Gilchrist ever gets over his fears about an anarchist revolt, I look forward to debating him, assuming, of course, that he doesn’t cut and run again.

Oh, and by the way, some of my closest friends are anarchists. Take my word for it–they’re nothing to be afraid of, except in a debate.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.