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A Question of Rights

Controversial Content
Added: Sunday, November 20th 2011 at 7:51pm by InsidePassage
Related Tags: american, terrorism

News of the Hour: Jose Pimentel, aka Muhammad Yusef, aka Wannabe Bomber

   Yes, the last title is made up by me, as I coudn't think of anything particularly witty or cutting to call the guy, and while I should probably be giving him the consideration of "innocent until proven guilty" the case seems pretty straightforward, with a good deal of investigatory work already done, and the announcement full of self-congratulation. I suppose I can err on the side of Guilty without doing a grave injustice.

   The news is only a few hours old (arrested today), so here's a little catch-up: Pimentel, a naturalized (as a child) citizen from the Dominican Republic, decided he identified more with Al'Qaeda than his chosen homeland, and after a little inspiration from the one and only Al'Awaki in the form of the man's newsletter and bomb-making manual, Pimentel decided to follow through on that by building some bombs, with the usual targets in mind: the postal service, the police, service men and woman coming back from Iraq. Nobody would thank him for it, of course. Kind of stupid in fact, as it accomplishes nothing but piss everyone around you off rather than creating fear, but goes to show that living here doesn't mean you understand the country you're a part of. He's a "lone wolf", indicating he's not part of some larger plot.

  Ultimately, that's just news, and I wouldn't see it necessary to repost it here, when a dozen newspapers of varying ideology can do it better. What interests me is the natural question that was posed by a talk show host I listen to each week. It's not a new question, and has been dealt with before because of Al'Awaki, but it's pertinent because of what Pimentel is:

   Should an American citizen be tried under the laws of this country if they were involved in a terrorist plot or act of terrorism against the USA? Should torture be allowed?

   My own opinion, like the question, is not a new one. Due process is a constitutional right guaranteed to every citizen of this country, and we are guarded against cruel and unusual punishment. More importantly, for a citizen not to be allowed to be tried under the laws of this country is to assume beforehand that they are guity. Neither is in keeping with our laws, freedoms or anything we stand for. We deal with our own, and sometimes (thanks to technicalities and lawyers) the results may not be to our liking. Yes, that means a would-be terrorist could get off.

   The alternative is to give the executive branch way too much power; the CIA, FBI and DHS already answer directly to the president. Under no circumstances should a president or that president's administration have the authority to strip a citizen of due process and permit their torture.

   I would point out that getting off even when you're clearly guilty, doesn't mean that you're off the hook. It's that person's neighbors and fellow citizens they were plotting against after all. There is a cloud over their head, one that is every bit as dark as a sex offender's, and you bet people will be watching closely from then on.

  On that note, a few things need to be said. While a citizen being tried for terrorism does and should retain their right to due process, law should reflect far more serious consequences than a normal crime, and I'm not sure the law does that now. What needs to happen? I see at least one right off: Call it a Disclosure, Forefeiture and Extended Consequences law. (note that I am not a professional versed in law and do not refer to real legal principles that may have the same name)

1. Disclosure - Referring back to the sex offender's list. If someone has been convicted of plotting the deaths of their fellow citizens, I don't care how far they move away to leave their past... their neighbors need to know that. No opportunity to restart the same with a new name. Pimentel has two aliases already, want to bet he'd take a fourth? 

2. Forfeiture - Like all legal proceedings, a prisoner may lose rights such as life or liberty, and this includes the right to privacy. All relevant personal data on a convicted terrorist should be surrendered to the proper authorities on request, be they the DHS or some other investigative division. Stastistical research and investigatory links are worthwhile.

3. Extended Consequence s - The greater the scope of the act or plot, the greater the legal consequences. There are ways to gauge that in terms of human life, but that's a  colder and harder principle than I'm interested in discussing at the moment.

Law already does, and should continue to reflect the severity of the crimes being perpetrated. If the state of our legal system is such that it is insufficient to proper prosecution of a homegrown terrorist, then it needs to evolve. New day, new laws.

~ End ~

Reference articles:

1) http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/alleged-lone-wolf-jose-pimentel-arrested-york-terror/story?id=14994845#.TsnDXOyPEsY

2) http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/11/20/police-arrest-suspect-in-alleged-terror-plot/

User Comments

Clear and concise writing reflecting clear headed thinking about these issues. Well done.

Rules are rules, citizens are due protection.  In the back of my mind, wonder if this case is like any of the federal ones, where the governments "informer" has pushed the suspect into doing something he might not otherwise do.  It was odd that the feds didn't want to get so involved in this one.

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