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Inglourious Justice
February 11, 2010 4:21 PM   Subscribe

You may have seen Newt Gingrich this past Tuesday on The Daily Show describing Obama's decision to try the Underpants Bomber in the courts as "radical." He pointed out an incident in 1942 when Franklin Roosevelt suspended habeus corpus for Nazi saboteurs dropped off on Long Island by submarine to wreak havoc on Ameica. While "Nazi Terrorists" might be almost comic book class villains, Newt probably would prefer people not to recall the true story and villains of Operation Pastorius.
posted by justkevin (43 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Regarding the Pants Bomber: Republicans were notified that the guy was being criminally prosecuted (yes, including being read those Miranda rights as outlined in the fifth amendment to the Constitution they love so much) and it was four days before Dick Cheney reminded them to be pissed off about it. These guys consider their only job to be undermining the President.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:32 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Stories like that make my blood boil. And pretty much makes me think FDR was human slime. Forget any good he did: the worth of a man can be judged in that moment, and there it is: vermin. FDR was vermin.

The lesson here is that Dasch should have just taken the cash and run off to South America, where he'd be elbow to elbow with the German high command living high on the hog within a few years anway.
posted by hincandenza at 4:36 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great post. I thought I knew this story, but I did not know two of the "saboteurs" had turned in the rest, and what a kangaroo court the military tribunal system had produced.

I will say that while watching the interview, I, like Stewart, couldn't believe that Gingrich would equate spies and saboteurs acting on behalf of a sovereign nation with whom the U.S. was in a declared war with the Christmas bomber. As Stewart pointed out right after I unpaused our DVR and stopped declaiming to my husband, Al Quaeda and their henchpeople are plain old thugs. This whole "war on terror" just elevates (international) criminals to a status they have never deserved.
posted by bearwife at 4:37 PM on February 11, 2010 [10 favorites]


Christ, that story is horrific.
posted by darth_tedious at 4:39 PM on February 11, 2010


Gingrich also explained why it was OK for the Bush administration to Mirandize the Shoe Bomber, Richard Reid, by claiming that he's a US citizen. As usual, Gingrich was wrong.
posted by wadefranklin at 4:41 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obligatory This American Life link.
posted by Rat Spatula at 4:41 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


And yes, it's absurd to compare the Underpants Bomber to the agents of a powerful, industrialized European nation with a vast army and the resources of an entire country.
posted by wadefranklin at 4:44 PM on February 11, 2010


As usual, Gingrich was wrong.

He wasn't wrong, he was lying. And the smug bastard even managed to get it past Stewart. To Stewart's credit, he fact-checked afterward and pointed out the lie later.
posted by octothorpe at 4:49 PM on February 11, 2010 [9 favorites]


My question:

Doesn't enlisting in the military of a foreign power (especially one we're at war with) cause you to lose your citizenship/naturalization/whatever? So, since it was a time of (real) war, I think it made sense to treat these guys as POWs.

World War II was an actual war with a forseeable end, so to me that approach kind of makes sense.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:51 PM on February 11, 2010


Poor Newt. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride...wants to be pres but now ready to join
that elite group of seniles that hold office.
posted by Postroad at 4:51 PM on February 11, 2010


Christ, what a Hoover.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:55 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I clapped and giggle when Stewart told Gingrich to not let reality get in his way. Why aren't more people questioning these liars to their faces? Why does the jester still have to do it with his ideological allies supposedly in power?
posted by flaterik at 4:55 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Quietly, with only the most professional degree of panic, the FBI began the largest manhunt in its history.

Great article. Thanks.
posted by msalt at 5:12 PM on February 11, 2010


“FDR was vermin.”
Uh, spies and saboteurs were routinely executed after military commissions during declared wars, if not summarily, for thousands of years in nearly every country in the world.
FDR commuted his (and Burgers) sentence from death. Even then, Hoover had misrepresented the issue to FDR so on this, he seems to be acting pretty charitably.
I’m a bit more leery of FDR okaying the Japanese internment camps really.
All that said, there are big differences between spies/saboteurs and terrorists that hardly need to be addressed.

What’s more of a concern is that people like Gingrich seem to want to turn the entire country into an internment camp for people not buying in to the big lie.
Indeed this goes beyond cognitive dissonance, it’s party self-interest and self-obsession to the point of suicidal insanity.
Like some passenger screaming mid-flight the pilots are doing it all wrong Gingrich is blathering transparent inanities and I have no idea why he’s at all taken seriously if not straitjacketed and medicated.
You see this kind of thing all through history, particularly Rome, where foreign policy and war is a tool of domestic political advantage - such that the empire and its citizens are endangered along with the very people punching holes in the system and infrastructure that defends them from the invading barbarians.
And yet, they keep punching the holes and keep forcing bread and circuses (mostly circuses) to distract.
The Romans you can maybe forgive. They had only private, skill based schools for the wealthy kids and communication was nowhere near as sophisticated.

Today, I don’t know how someone so insistent on a false reality can feed themselves much less prosper. And yet here we are.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:16 PM on February 11, 2010 [15 favorites]


Gingrich also explained why it was OK for the Bush administration to Mirandize the Shoe Bomber, Richard Reid, by claiming that he's a US citizen. As usual, Gingrich was wrong.

And then "GingivitisGrinch" on Twitter tried to explain that he was referring to Jose Padilla.
"On daily show was wrong re: ShoeBomber citizenship, was thinking of Padilla. Treating terrorists like criminals wrong no matter who is Pres."
Problem is that in 2005: Newt Gingrich previously defended treating terrorists like criminals.
posted by ericb at 5:21 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


His latest book is To Try Men's Souls.

IT'S A COOKBOOK!
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:26 PM on February 11, 2010 [43 favorites]


(ok, that was brilliant AZ)
posted by Smedleyman at 5:33 PM on February 11, 2010


I read that as "Newt Gingrich passed on Tuesday." Got me all excited.
posted by Big_B at 5:38 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


t's absurd to compare the Underpants Bomber to the agents of a powerful, industrialized European nation with a vast army and the resources of an entire country.

It's far worse than absurd; it's totally irresponsible and reprehensible, and it's what made the Bush rhetorical "war on terror" (which Obama has dutifully aped: see his West Point speech) so Orwellian and irresponsible from the start.

Every act of terrorism, actualized or potential (and including the home-grown non-Jihadi ones Republicans ignore) should be dealt with as a police action, nothing more and nothing less. American politicians elevating this into a "war" is itself a kind of terrorism, since it does nothing at all on a practical level but serves only to stir up all kinds of bullshit phobia. The Cheney doctrine is a lie.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 5:49 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Quietly, with only the most professional degree of panic, the stars were going out."
posted by The Tensor at 5:57 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think we should start calling him Newt Gingroach.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:07 PM on February 11, 2010


Inside were large quantities of explosives, detonation equipment, Nazi uniforms, and quality German liquor.

So just what was the liquor for? I missed that. If it's for them, were they being sabotaged by their own supply team? And with the equivalent of a million dollars and in New York, were they really worried they couldn't get their hands on some Jäger? I don't get it.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:22 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


And with the equivalent of a million dollars and in New York

Less confusing then the Nazi uniforms.
posted by delmoi at 6:34 PM on February 11, 2010


I once knew a guy who carved on semi-precious gems. He carved the head of Newt Gingrich on a coprolite. I wish I'd bought it. Oh well, instead I bring you the Austin Lounge Lizards on the subject.
posted by irisclara at 7:03 PM on February 11, 2010


When you lie to Jon Stewart, you lie to every American.

Fascinating article, thanks for the post.
posted by Catblack at 7:07 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


American politicians elevating this into a "war" is itself a kind of terrorism, since it does nothing at all on a practical level

I'm convinced that politicians only call it a "War On [something]" if they don't intend to win. But you're wrong that it does nothing on a practical level; it provides a pretext for nearly anything they want to do, it demolishes budgetary constraints and even makes the rule of law highly malleable. It even lets them declare parts of the U.S. Constitution inapplicable, if not downright unpatriotic. I think there's an entire class of politician who has more common cause with terrorists than with the American public. Unlike more constructive programs, a war doesn't have to have a timetable, nor do we expect to know about the planning or strategy. They can't even be held accountable for failure because they don't have to establish any criteria for success.

This is rich, rich pickings for politicians. They are empowered by it, they're not going to give it up and they sure as fuck don't want to win.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:08 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


you're wrong that it does nothing on a practical level

You're right; I meant nothing constructive or practically useful to the end of actually fighting terrorism, but rather does the very thing you articulate so well: i.e. it answers the neocon wetdream of enabling the military industrial complex to establish an ever-shifting rationale for an endless war against a shadowy enemy about which the general public knows next to nothing. The entire G.W.O.T. was designed to replace the Cold War and sustain the American Imperium, and unfortunately GOP appartchiks like Gingrich are still in thrall of this insidious set of rhetorical devices.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 7:22 PM on February 11, 2010


it's absurd to compare the Underpants Bomber to the agents of a powerful, industrialized European nation with a vast army and the resources of an entire country

Clearly you've forgotten the dire threat of Hitler's dreaded Unterwäschetruppem.

Inside were large quantities of explosives, detonation equipment, Nazi uniforms, and quality German liquor.

Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:24 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Previously (wayback link). Quirin was also the decision cited by the Bushites as justification for using military tribunals to prosecute terrorists, despite its horrible provenance. Its authority as good law has thankfully been tarnished a bit since 2002, when I posted that.
posted by norm at 7:30 PM on February 11, 2010


Dasch.... called the FBI’s New York Field Office, and after several transfers was put in touch with a special agent. Identifying himself as “Pastorius,” the name of the mission, Dasch carefully recited his story. Then, ominously, the man on the other end of the line hung up. Dasch was stricken with panic. Had he just exposed himself to a Nazi spy? Had the call been traced?

George John Dasch (left) and Ernst Peter Burger (right)In fact, he had been speaking to the office’s “nut desk,” the post responsible for fielding calls from Cleopatra and the wolf-man. In the midst of the most important case in the Bureau’s history, the agent on duty had dismissed their only lead as a prank.


Mulder's predecessor on the X-Files desk didn't seem to take his job as seriously.
posted by orange swan at 7:34 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]



Great read. If this case is used as precedent for military tribunals, isn't there a way for whatever authority to revisit the case and undo its precedent? Or is a precedent always a precedent, no matter how badly conducted it was?
posted by dealing away at 8:13 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


He wasn't wrong, he was lying. And the smug bastard even managed to get it past Stewart. To Stewart's credit, he fact-checked afterward and pointed out the lie later.

This is the typical Republican MO: Lie on Page 1 retraction the next day on page 37 - by then they have had their echo chamber reference the lie 1000 times to amplify the damage to maximum effect.

Again, how many times does someone in your personal life have to lie to you until you no longer believe a word they say? Why do you treat Republicans differently? Shame on Stewart for not only giving a confirmed liar like Gingrich a stage but also for helping him sell his book of lies on the Daily Show homepage.
posted by any major dude at 8:48 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this case is used as precedent for military tribunals, isn't there a way for whatever authority to revisit the case and undo its precedent? Or is a precedent always a precedent, no matter how badly conducted it was?

It has been used as precedent. In fact, it's been cited in dozens of cases. To answer your questions, yes, there's a way for a precedent to be overturned. Note, though, that the result in this particular case would almost certainly not be overturned; Dasch would not receive a posthumous pardon or anything like that.

In the US precedents can only be overturned by a court equal to or higher than the court that established the precedent in the first place. That means that only the Supreme Court could over turn Ex parte Quirin (the Supreme Court case that came out of this horrible affair). So far it has declined to do so as recently as 2008 in Boumediene v. Bush and 2006 in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

The Court has, however, sometimes distinguished Quirin, which means that it decided that Quirin, while still good law, did not apply to the case at hand. That's what it did in Boumediene, for example.

Congress could act to legislatively overrule Quirin but it has so far refused to do so.
posted by jedicus at 9:43 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like we should expect anything better from the guy who typed up a list of derogatory words for Republicans to call Democrats as part of his house leadership strategy.
posted by Aquaman at 12:32 AM on February 12, 2010


Regarding the Pants Bomber: Republicans were notified that the guy was being criminally prosecuted (yes, including being read those Miranda rights as outlined in the fifth amendment to the Constitution they love so much) and it was four days before Dick Cheney reminded them to be pissed off about it. These guys consider their only job to be undermining the President.

There's nothing in the linked article that says that Republicans were notified that the Pants Bomber was being Mirandized. It says that Republicans should have assumed he was being read Miranda warnings because they were notified that the FBI was handling the case.

Isn't the whole point of the FPP that the FBI had the German saboteurs arrested, tried by a military commission, and in some cases executed without recognizing any rights under the Fifth or Sixth Amendments?
posted by Slap Factory at 6:07 AM on February 12, 2010


I thought the Newt Gingrich's example of Nazi's was so stupid. Yes, many Nazi's were executed, but also some were very controversially granted American citizenship and given fantastic jobs in the military. I know this is what happened to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wernher_von_Braun, and there must be others.

So yeah, if you're looking for an example of an administration being tough on enemy prisoners, maybe avoid the nazis...
posted by lonelid at 6:58 AM on February 12, 2010


You see this kind of thing all through history, particularly Rome, where foreign policy and war is a tool of domestic political advantage

The only thing is, during the Roman Empire, the politicians had to fight along with the troops if there was a war--at least during the early days. The thought of Newt having to fight an enraged elephant-riding celt in hand-to-hand combat delights me to no end.
posted by silkyd at 7:31 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really, the most dangerous thing about all this is this persistent meme the Republicans have been promulgating that it diminishes the seriousness of terrorism to treat it as a "mere criminal justice matter." Implicit in this formulation is the idea that military rule is somehow a higher authority or less fallible than the justice system. For a country founded on the explicit principle that civilian legal authority should be supreme, and that no one should be above or outside the law, this attitude couldn't be more un-American in character.

Worse still, it inflates the authority and importance of the military justice system, which has historically been understood to be subordinate and deferential to the civilian legal system.

Gingrich's kind of thinking creates military dictatorships.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:42 AM on February 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


So I caught an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street the other day, and it was kind of a mind trip:

– dapper detective hats!

– Neil Patrick Harris, playing edgy as a pot dealer!

– bombings, as just another M.O., just another red name on the whiteboard for the city homicide police to deal with!
posted by furiousthought at 8:24 AM on February 12, 2010


It was only upon reading the transcript of the trial that Roosevelt learned how Hoover had misled him.

And the fact that Hoover wasn't immediately disciplined by the president shows that the problem of our failing to make people take responsibility for their actions goes back quite a long time.
posted by quin at 8:37 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the "Operation:Pastorius" link: the general public was overwhelmingly in favor of execution for all eight terrorists. A letter printed in one newspaper called for the men to be fed to Gargantua, the Ringling Brothers’ famous giant circus gorilla.

Forget "Military Tribunals." If you attack America, you will be eaten by a giant circus gorilla. PROBLEM SOLVED
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:13 AM on February 12, 2010


Implicit in this formulation is the idea that military rule is somehow a higher authority or less fallible than the justice system.

In fact, it's the opposite. The criminal justice system tells you that your actions are morally wrong. A military tribunal says that you were just fighting for your side in a war. All's fair in love and war... Sure, you might get summarily executed, but that's what makes spies and soldiers brave and honorable and movie-worthy.
posted by msalt at 10:35 AM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


And the fact that Hoover wasn't immediately disciplined by the president shows that the problem of our failing to make people take responsibility for their actions goes back quite a long time.

It also should be remembered that Hoover kept files on everyone, all the time, including files on women believed to be lesbian lovers of Eleanor Roosevelt. Keeping something like that hanging over the President's head would not, as far as can be told, be outside of Hoover's realm of action.

That situation was a complete craphole, but so was Hoover, and I would be unsurprised to find out that he basically stated he had blackmail material on anyone involved to get things to go his way.
posted by mephron at 12:05 PM on February 12, 2010


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