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For Love of the State

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On April 25, the Washington Times ran a front-page story titled, Ashcroft asserts right to hold illegals, Says indefinite detentions aids security.

And, with a taste for irony that couldnt possibly have been intentional, the Times ran an op-ed on the same day, by Jerome Cohen of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Jared Genser, president of Freedom Now, titled Tyranny in China, The ongoing quest to free Yang Jianli.

Allow me to quote both items at length, starting with the April 25 article:

Attorney General John Ashcroft says the government can detain illegal immigrants indefinitely when federal authorities determine they pose a threat to national security. In a 19-page opinion requested by the Department of Homeland Security in a case involving a Haitian immigrant, Mr. Ashcroft said such national security considerations clearly constitute a reasonable foundation for the exercise of my discretion to deny release on bond. …The opinion, according to those who have reviewed it, gives the attorney general broad discretion in determining the status of detained illegal immigrants in the country.

And this, from the April 25 op-ed:

Last April 26, Yang Jianli, president of the Boston-based Foundation for China in the 21st Century, holder of Ph.D.s from both Harvard and Berkeley and husband and father of three attractive American citizens, was detained by Chinas police. He has not been heard from since. One year later, Mr. Yang remains incommunicado in a Beijing detention cell, arrested on charges of having illegally returned to China using a false passport.

In principle, is there any real difference between the actions of these two governments? Allusions to national security may allow Ashcroft and his supporters to sleep better at night, but they ought to know that it is just such a justification that is motivating their Communist counterparts, as well. An apt, if terrifying, comparison.

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    Scott McPherson is policy adviser at The Future of Freedom Foundation. An advocate of the Free State Project, he lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.