Blacklist!
September 23, 2001 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Blacklist! Bush is expected to issue an executive order labeling certain people as "terrorists", which will lock up their assets and generally make life miserable. Who needs checks and balances or due process?
posted by jgilliam (21 comments total)

 
You can challenge executive branch action in federal court (check), and Congress can de-fund or render illegal executive branch action (balance).

The constitution vests all executive authority in one person precisely to allow the president to act swiftly in times of emergency. "Checks and balances" does not equal consulting every branch of government before taking executive action.
posted by Mid at 11:00 AM on September 23, 2001


I really don't have much faith in these approaches, because we've all seen how well THAT's worked out in the so-called "war on drugs".

In fact if you combine this idea with the already-existing anti-middle-eastern sentiment demonstrated on a large number of airplane flights since 9/11 (mediterranean-looking people asked to leave airplanes for no reason, etc.), it's not too hard to figure out the approach's weak points.
posted by clevershark at 11:05 AM on September 23, 2001


Thanks mid. With current sentiment, Congress certainly won't render this illegal. Will the "terrorists" get high-powered american lawyers to fight it in the courts? The ACLU seems to be very nervous with all the proposed legislation - hopefully they will help challenge this.
posted by jgilliam at 11:13 AM on September 23, 2001


MATA/ATA are both action alerts at eff.org. Info on contacting your rep and senators and sample letters can be found there for those interested. Put you emails and faxmodems to good use. click
posted by skallas at 11:36 AM on September 23, 2001


An essential link and question, jgilliam.
A related question is whether Bush should revoke Reagan's 1981 executive order against assassination: "No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination."
Yet Newt Gingrich recently said that the U.S. should be able to "preemptively eliminate" terrorists but added: "I think we shouldn't be in the business of assassinating heads of state."
There's a disconcerting, but level-headed article by Jacob Sullum in today's Reason, where he makes the opposite argument: "Civilized governments, in other words, do not stoop to kill a foreign head of state, no matter how tyrannical or murderous he is. Instead, they punish his unfortunate subjects with bombs and embargoes."
It's well worth reading and would be a valuable addition to this debate. Isn't Sullum right to ask "And if those people happen to be heads of state? It’s hard to understand this solicitude for thugs who are so thuggish that they’ve managed to dominate an entire country. If Osama bin Laden somehow took control of Afghanistan, would he suddenly be off-limits? Instead of insisting on distinctions that seem to have no moral basis, perhaps we should talk about the circumstances in which self-defense justifies killing people in cold blood. That’s the real issue, whether we choose to call it assassination or not."

I think he is. What about you?

(I am still pondering everyone's remarks and will come back if I have any decent thought of my own. Thanks.)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:37 AM on September 23, 2001


If Osama bin Laden somehow took control of Afghanistan, would he suddenly be off-limits? Instead of insisting on distinctions that seem to have no moral basis, perhaps we should talk about the circumstances in which self-defense justifies killing people in cold blood.

A very good point. Presumably we are loathe to "remove" a state's leader because we assume that that would be somehow violating or contradicting the will of that nation's people. In many cases, however, it is less than clear that that would be the case at all. Assumptions that may be valid for democracies may not fit dictatorships and other forms of government.

And then, of course, there's the question of at what point a leader, whether he represents the will of his people or not, can no longer be tolerated due to his heinous, criminal, and destabilizing behavior, impacting his own people and those of other nations. No one likes to contemplate the ramifications of this sticky question, but clearly we are not going be able to turn away from it for much longer.
posted by rushmc at 12:03 PM on September 23, 2001


I'm no legal expert - but wouldn't such an order only apply to people who are not citizens of the United States? I'm fairly certain such an order would not be constitutional if levied against US citizens, but I think the president has much wider powers with respect to foreign policy.

Such a distinction still doesn't mean that the executive order would never be abused of course - but it's probably best to be certain about what the extent of it is, before leaping into assumptions about how it will affect the civil liberties of Arab-Americans.
posted by Chanther at 12:08 PM on September 23, 2001


I think everyone agrees that this is a new kind of war. Now that the enemy has changed dramatically, Bush should revoke the executive order preventing assassination of foreign leaders. It probably made sense the way war used to be waged, but no longer.
posted by jgilliam at 12:18 PM on September 23, 2001


there's the question of at what point a leader, whether he represents the will of his people or not, can no longer be tolerated due to his heinous, criminal, and destabilizing behavior, impacting his own people and those of other nations

Spot on, rushmc. A certain Adolf was elected too...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:20 PM on September 23, 2001


actually, I believe it was Gerald Fords executive order against assasinations.
posted by jbelshaw at 12:39 PM on September 23, 2001


Miguel: Um, Adolph more or less snuck in through the back door.
posted by raysmj at 12:40 PM on September 23, 2001


Hang on, there. The sentence in the article reads "...issue an executive order designating certain groups and individuals as 'terrorists' ... The order would lock up their assets in the United States and starve them of financial support.

No mention that any of these people are American citizens or even residents. This is different from actions taken against Iran, Iraq, etc. only in degree of specificity. These designations against groups and individuals will be done under the Anti-Terrorism {and Effective Death Penalty} Act of 1996, passed in the wake of Oklahoma City, which has already encountered several challenges in court, but on March 5 of this year the United States Supreme Court declined to hear appeals (in a case brought by US organizations wishing to provide humanitarian support to Kurd and Tamil rebels). Given that this was third-party support I doubt that the Court would be more generous to individuals specifically named, unless they were American citizens who were not also accused of specific criminal activity.

jbelshaw: Every president beginning with Ford has issued an Executive Order outlining assassination policy (and note that any President feeling the need could change it again with the stroke of a pen). As Daniel Schorr noted, it's been relaxed each time, to the point where it's now a little meaningless. The Bush administration has already indicated that they do not believe even their existing policy prevents targeting bin Laden, so it's a moot point whether a new Executive Order is required.
posted by dhartung at 12:48 PM on September 23, 2001


jbelshaw: yeah, it was Ford, and it was mid-70s, not 1981.

raysmj: he did manipulate the media and he did only win a plurality in a pseudo-parliamentary system, but it was a plurality and it wasn't the 'back door.'

To the original author: due process and the like are rights held by criminals who are american citizens. Bin Laden and his ilk are (1) not Americans and (2) not criminals.

on (1): When these types of penalties are levied against American citizens without due process, then we should and I think will complain loudly. But for those who do not live in our society or play by the rules of our society, the things we think of as rights are not rights but privileges.

on (2): I think in some ways calling this a 'war' is probably an exagerration. But it is much, much more accurate than calling it a mere crime, which it has to be for your concerns to be relevant. The scale and scope of this action will (most likely) soon lead Congress to declare it a war, and at that point, no matter how much the ACLU wants to sue, any court will quite simply say 'the Congress has declared it a war and until they decide otherwise the executive branch gets to make the rules.' And that is how it should be, IMNSHO.
posted by louie at 12:59 PM on September 23, 2001


Raysmj, don't forget that Bush lost the popular vote of this election. While we're counting our backdoors....
posted by Birichini at 1:02 PM on September 23, 2001


due process and the like are rights held by criminals who are american citizens.

"Accused" would be more accurate than "criminals."
posted by rushmc at 1:15 PM on September 23, 2001


Of course, louie, but what if I were labeled a "terrorist"? That's my real concern. You're assuming that the government actually *knows* the answer to that question.

We now know that the terrorists are living among their victims. So the government will be targeting people that are our neighbors. They will be put on a list. Will you?

At what point does the only requirement to get on the list become spewing propaganda similar to known terrorists?

Are my concerns a bit alarmist? Probably, but freedom is taken away inch-by-inch.
posted by jgilliam at 1:53 PM on September 23, 2001


jgilliam, you may be right about inch-by-inch, but you may want to read Sec. 302 of the Anti-Terrorism Act on designation of foreign terrorist organizations rather than making assumptions.

The whole thing is a good, long read, actually. What's interesting, now, are the loopholes, particularly the now astonishing outdated viewpoint that the biggest thing we needed to fear was bombs being placed on airplanes -- in particular this White House fact sheet on new anti-terrorism measures, especially the sobering fact that We spent $1 billion on counter-terrorism and it was almost completely useless.
posted by dhartung at 2:13 PM on September 23, 2001


I don't think this administration has been rash about jumping to conclusions and therefore am not terribly concerned about civil liberties violations in this situation. The potential exists - of course - for abuse, as it does in the ordinary course of public affairs, but so far we've seen no indication that this will be the case. There are no details given as to what constitutes the "terrorist" designation, and to automatically assume that that designation will be invoked on people that do not deserve it is not fair to the men and women that are having to make difficult decisions about how to handle this problem. Members of the federal intelligence and law enforcement community are probably more acutely aware of the potential for rights violations than anyone. If you spent your life in enforcement and saw even one truly dangerous criminal released on a "technicality," justified or not, you'd make damn sure the proper protocols were followed the next time. When the stakes are this high, people are going to be even more careful.

I've heard nothing but tolerance messages from the president and other government officials. It has been stated numerous times that the current conflict is with known terrorists; not Arabs or Muslims. It seems like some of the public just doesn't want to hear this and wants to villify this administration's policies without knowing what they are. As someone who was a Gore supporter, I think I can be fairly objective about this.

It really bothers me that some people seem to think that this is some sort of war against an ethnic group. I live in Manhattan and was walking through Union Square yesterday, dismayed to see people holding up banners that said "Stop Racist War Now!" Granted, most of the banner-wielding people were under the age of 20 and probably know nothing about Middle Eastern Affairs, Islam, or any of the relevant issues, but it's still disturbing when there's not much this else administration can do to simultaneously go after the terrorists and not turn this into a civilizational conflict. the [admittedly small] sectors of the public that insist on framing this as an imperialist, classist war against an particular ethic group seem to be conveniently overlooking the fact that our strongest allies in the conflict [Saudi, UAE, etc.] also happen to be of the same ethnicity that this administration is allegedly persecuting.
posted by lizs at 2:30 PM on September 23, 2001


Note that this action is required by international treaty as well as U.S. law. Signatories to the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Financing are obligated to freeze or seize funds used or allocated for the purpose of committing terrorism. As dhartung notes, in the U.S., the State Department is responsible for identifying Foreign Terrorist Organizations. As of April, 2001, there were 29 such groups identified. The DOJ/INS, as well as State is responsible for identifying individuals with direct ties to these groups. As for due process, unless this is something new (doubtful - otherwise it would have it's own article instead of being one sentence in and overview piece) it's constitutionally OK to freeze the assets of groups and foreign nationals (and the individuals mentioned would be exclusively foreign nationals). As noted before, checks and balances come into play in that the individual or group can sue the government to unfreeze the assets (the judicial branch), or congress can pass a bill unfreezing the assets (the legislative branch).
posted by dchase at 2:45 PM on September 23, 2001


The sentence in the article reads "...issue an executive order designating certain groups and individuals as 'terrorists' ... The order would lock up their assets in the United States and starve them of financial support.

It's kind of tough to debate the Constitutional merits, or lack therof, of a hypothetical Executive Order based on a one-sentence summary in a Yahoo news article.

More details, anyone?
posted by mikewas at 6:45 PM on September 23, 2001


http://www.securityfocus.com/news/257

"Hackers, virus-writers and web site defacers would face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole under legislation proposed by the Bush Administration that would classify most computer crimes as acts of terrorism."
posted by eatdonuts at 11:42 AM on September 25, 2001


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