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I am furious at hearing of this MYTH that those who are not US Citizens are "Not Entitled" to the rights under our Constitution

By Andrew Pollack on 09/10/2006 at 10:23 PM EDT

What part of the following statement in the Declaration of Independence is unclear?

We hold these truths to be self-evident:
That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;...

If you haven't read this brief document recently, go read it again. It won't take long.

I've been watching "KOPPEL on Discovery" -- a fantastic program focused on the balance of security and civil liberty. This point keeps being put forward by proponents of extra-national detention centers and other such mechanisms which exist solely for the purpose of denying the prisoners access to the civil rights and legal checks and balances they would have either as US Citizens or else as noncitizens who are on our soil.

This is a terrible fallacy and misplaces the argument entirely. There is no such basis under which to deny someone those rights. When someone is not on US soil, we may not be able to project or enforce our vision of basic human rights and legal protections, but that does not in any way mean we do not believe that all people are entitled to those rights. We did not believe, for example, that Lech Welesa or Nelson Mandela were exempt from those rights, even if in their struggles we were unable to directly aid them in the way we would if they were on our soil.

If a person in the employ or under the direction of the people of the United States as represented by our elected government is in the control of another human being, that human being should be treated as if they were a foreign national in one of our airports or embassies. Being in a foreign land does not exempt us from living under the tenets of our constitution and the freedoms we enjoy as a result.

As far as I am concerned, any act committed by a representative of the United States in another land on someone in their custody should be prosecutable under the same laws as if that act had taken place on our soil. Period.

We are doing more harm than good when we seek to circumvent the very thing which makes us most strong, most admired, and most envied.

"Let me give you a simple rule of thumb. If the government can do something, it will."
-- Ted Koppel, "Koppen on Discovery" September 10th, 2006

There are  - loading -  comments....

In that case...By Tim Tripcony on 09/11/2006 at 12:24 AM EDT
...this might interest you:

Why would someone say that "we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand
for freedom" (
), then repeatedly take actions to erode freedom? It's bizarre and alarming.

Sadly, those who question the government's actions or motives are now labeled
unpatriotic. Apparently patriotism now means being willing to accept reduction
in civil liberties, and turn a blind eye to actions that we would label war
crimes if committed by our enemies, in return for pledges of increased physical
safety. Once upon a time, "patriot" meant someone like Patrick Henry:
Somehow I don't get the impression that physical safety was a top priority for
The Declaration of Independence has nothing to do with itBy Richard Schwartz on 09/11/2006 at 12:34 AM EDT
It has great significance as a historical document, and as a statement of
principles, but it has no standing in US law except as a background. The
Constitution itself (in the 14th amendment) does limit the rights it grants to
natural-born or naturalized citizens, so it is true that non-citizens are not
entitled to the rights under our Constitution. That does not change the fact
that they are entitled to certain rights according to our national principles,
nor does it change the fact that they are entitled to rights under
international law.
In the very same sentence that the Consitution proclaims itself to be the
supreme law of the land, it goes on to say that judges are bound to enforce any
treaties entered into by the United States even ahead of the Constitution
itself, and so things like the UN declarttion of universal human rights and the
Geneva convention do apply.
Of course it does. This is not strictly a legal matter. By Andrew Pollack on 09/11/2006 at 07:59 AM EDT
This is a moral matter and a values matter as much as it is a legal one. In
November when we go to the polls, one of the parts of our decision will be made
based on how well the people representing us actually stand for the things we
hold dear.

The Declaration may not have legal standing, but its opening statements are a
summation of the values which are the basis of our society.
My own thoughts on this are...By Chris Whisonant on 09/11/2006 at 08:02 AM EDT
Thanks Richard - that's what I was thinking. Andrew has "the Constitution" in
the subject and then quotes the Declaration. ;)

But in all fairness, Andrew, where's the proof that the US has acted wrongly
in the extra-national prisons? You just assume that because they are under this
administration that they must be as bad or worse than club gitmo. Where the
inmates eat better than the soldiers!
Club Gitmo? Give me a break.By Andrew Pollack on 09/11/2006 at 09:22 AM EDT
It's true that the facility isn't the wire and tin temporary structures it was
at first. No, now it's built as a real prison. It is modeled after other
military prisons.

It is a place were there are more than 200 people who have already been cleared
of any criminal activity yet are still being held. It is a place the rights of
the accused are ignored or declared non existent.

As far as the situation in the extra-national prisons, I suggest you take the
time to read the first person accounts of exactly what goes on in those

The sad thing is that it doesn't do any good. Most of the information you get
from torture is useless.
Torture InformationBy Chris Whisonant on 09/11/2006 at 09:46 AM EDT
"The sad thing is that it doesn't do any good. Most of the information you get
from torture is useless."

Have you not read that Pakistani "interrogation" led to the prevention of the
London plane attacks recently? Though I have no proof, I highly doubt that the
Pakistani interrogators were nice to their suspect. The suspect did give up the
information that led to the foiled plot.
I do not know what methods were used, however,By Andrew Pollack on 09/11/2006 at 09:50 AM EDT
first of all, the exception does not prove the rule. If it did in fact lead to something good once in a while, that does not change the statistical fact that it usually does not.

The other bit of warning, is that the ends never, ever, ever justify the means.
Hmmm...By Chris Whisonant on 09/11/2006 at 10:48 AM EDT
That's right - I would also rather deny the "life, liberty, and pursuit of
happiness" to 3,000 than to deny some liberty to a single terrorist.
Where's your proof, Chris?By Richard Schwartz on 09/11/2006 at 11:17 AM EDT
Where are the convictions by juries, based on the evidence, that (a) the threat
was real, and (b) that the information gathered in Pakistan was a significant
factor in exposing the scope and imminence of the threat and in identifying the
participants? Can you, in fact, point to even one verifiable case where a
terrorist attack was identified foiled based on information obtained in the CIA
interrogations. "Bush and Cheney and Fox News say so" is not verification.
Did you not watch ANY news at the time of the London arrests? By Chris Whisonant on 09/11/2006 at 11:42 AM EDT
Do you ever watch anything but Faux News? By Rob McDonagh on 09/11/2006 at 11:56 AM EDT
There are a number of open questions in this investigation. It is not nearly
as simple as it first appeared.
Here's a linkBy Chris Whisonant on 09/11/2006 at 01:14 PM EDT



This "faux news" stuff is ludicrous. Show me a single NEWS story that is
tainted. Not an op-ed, or a pundit, but a NEWS story. Show me one. Until then,
get off the "faux" high horse that's a strawman used to make your opponent look
stupid. Come on, you're much better than that!
It's not so easy as showing a tainted news story, and you know itBy Richard Schwartz on 09/11/2006 at 01:53 PM EDT
It is frequently what is not reported that makes the difference. All news
sources are unquestionably guilty of bias in how they select what to report and
what not. Has Fox reported the fact that there are sources in the UK that
strongly dispute the value of the information from the Pakistani source? Has
Fox reported that the location and suspects in London were under close
surveillance for many months before the Pakistanis made the arrest?

And if Fox has reported all this, why then are you not taking it into account
and admitting that the discovery of this plot did not hinge on the Pakistani
arrest and interrogation, and therefore this case does not serve as proof of
the value of the secret CIA detentions and interrogations?
Watch the movie "outfoxed" and then say that with a straight faceBy Rob McDonagh on 09/11/2006 at 03:13 PM EDT
The fact that the people behind Faux News (I'll stop calling them fake news -
in French, no less - when they start providing more accurate information than
proudly fake news shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which I
fully expect to be a very frosty day in Satan's backyard) are clever enough to
avoid saying explicitly untruthful things does not mean they aren't being
dishonest. It is possible to mislead without saying anything technically
false. The politicians (both parties - Clinton was a master, as is Cheney) do
this all the time, but purported news organizations aren't supposed to try to
trick their viewers.
Yes, Chris, I watch the newsBy Richard Schwartz on 09/11/2006 at 01:30 PM EDT
And the news reports that I saw have indicated that the locations and
individuals in London were under surveillance well before the Pakistanis
captured and interrogated someone. There is no proof that the evidence
provided by the Pakistanis did anything except change the time-line of arrests,
and it is entirely possible that the change was due to the fact that news of
the arrest leaked and the US and UK authorities were afraid that the suspects
in London were about to be tipped off.

Don't show me accusations, claims by the administration and sensationalist
reporting. Those are all worth squat. They prove nothing. Show me the
convictions delivered by juries in open court based on the evidence gathered in
the secret prisons. Then I'll believe that CIA detentions and interrogations
are making us safer.
And here's my linksBy Richard Schwartz on 09/11/2006 at 01:46 PM EDT
First article:,,25689-2308675,00.html

"Pakistan said today that its security forces had arrested a 'key person' in
the alleged transatlantic terror plot, who is the brother of one of the 24 men
held by police in a dramatic dawn swoop in the UK yesterday.

Rashid Rauf was arrested in the Punjab on Wednesday, hours before the
simultaneous raids in Birmingham, Buckinghamshire and London that brought
Britain’s airports to a standstill yesterday."

If this article is correct that he was arrested just "hours before" the UK
raids, that surely indicates that whatever questioning the Pakistanis did, by
whatever methods, were not likely the key to the breaking the case. I'm not
sure that's correct, but as many other articles indicate, even if the arrest
took place a week or two earlier, the investigation was going on for many
months before that. The suspects were under close surveillance. Their
movements and communications were known. Any move toward actually putting the
plot into action would have been observed, intercepted and the suspects tried
with full due process under British law.

This next article, however, suggests that key evidence may now be tainted by
the Pakistani arrest, possibly making convictions more difficult:

"British security was concerned that Rauf be taken into custody 'in
circumstances where there was due process, according to the official, so that
he could be tried in British courts. Ultimately, this official says, Rauf was
arrested over the objections of the British.

The official shed light on other aspects of the case, saying that while the
investigation into the bombing plot began "months ago," some suspects were
known to the security services even before the London subway bombings last year.

He acknowledged that authorities had conducted electronic and e-mail
surveillance as well as physical surveillance of the suspects."

And one final link that just generally confirms how long the investigation and
surveillance were going on:

"In the aftermath of the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings on London's transit
system, British authorities received a call from a worried member of the Muslim
community, reporting general suspicions about an acquaintance.

From that vague but vital piece of information, according to a senior European
intelligence official, British authorities opened the investigation into what
they said turned out to be a well-coordinated and long-planned plot to bomb
multiple transatlantic flights heading toward the United States -- an assault
designed to rival the scope and lethality of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings.

By late 2005, the probe had expanded to involve several hundred investigators
on three continents. They kept dozens of suspects under close surveillance for
months, even as some of the plotters traveled between Britain and Pakistan to
raise money, find recruits and refine their scheme, according to interviews
with U.S. and European counterterrorism officials.

Precise details of the plot -- how many planes, their destinations and the date
-- remain unknown. The shape of the operation changed regularly as the would-be
bombers considered which transatlantic flights to target and prepared for a
practice run, which was expected to take place in the next few days, U.S. law
enforcement officials said."
That's why I said...By Richard Schwartz on 09/11/2006 at 09:48 AM EDT
"That does not change the fact that they are entitled to certain rights
according to our national principles..."

I just think your argument is stronger without starting with "What part of the
declaration of independence is unclear?"

My own thoughts on this are...By Andy Broyles on 09/11/2006 at 09:19 AM EDT
While I agree with you in principle, and at the same time with Richard on the
legality; I find it also important that when the declaration's authors stated
'ALL MEN' they didn't mean ALL PEOPLE as you seem to have extended the meaning
to. In fact the document and history have clearly shown that ALL MEN really
meant all male property owners, and nothing more.

Granted our American sensibilities have extended that original idea and have
amended the Constitution to be more inclusive (racial rights and women's
sufferage,) it is disingenious to say that the declaration was written at a
level above the self-interest of the authors.
What you say is true, and was the subject of much debateBy Andrew Pollack on 09/11/2006 at 09:28 AM EDT
Sensibilities in the 18th century were not what they are today, and regional
differences did abound. I hardly think this is the same thing as assuming that
the same person who would have certain rights by virtue of entering our ports
or embassies should have different rights in our eyes when they are elsewhere
-- even if we cannot always enforce those rights.
My own thoughts on this are...By Richard Schwartz on 09/11/2006 at 11:25 AM EDT
Actually, Andrew, the question of "rights by virtue of entering our ports or
embassies" is a very complex one that courts have been working on and treaties
have been refining for a few hundred years -- along with the flip-side question
of what jurisdictional rights the US has over people in our ports, in foreign
embassies on our soil, or whom we have brought onto our soil (a la Noriega).
The fact is, in both US and international law, it frequently does matter where
you are and where you were born or naturalized.

Which again does not change the fact that our standard should in fact be to
confer as many rights as possible in all cases, so as to achieve justice under
the toughest standards of law.
calling All Men...By Devin Olson on 09/15/2006 at 11:08 AM EDT
"In fact the document and history have clearly shown that ALL MEN really meant
all male property owners, and nothing more."

Sorry Andy, but I have to disagree with you on this one.

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to
dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to
assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal Station to which
the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitles them, a decent respect to the
opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among
these are LIFE, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these
rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from
the consent of the governed..."

In this area of the Declaration of Independence, they ("they" being the
representatives of the "The Thirteen United States of America") are
establishing the fact that MAN is creation of GOD; related to and bound by
both the Laws of Nature (those that govern the physical world -such as gravity)
and of Nature's God (those that govern the spirit); and therefore something of
VALUE. They have not yet begun the enumeration and specification of complaints,
wherein they do in fact refer to property owners.

When they state that "...all men are created equal,..." they are in fact
referring to man as a species, meaning every man, woman, and child born unto
this earth, regardless of race, color, or religion.

While I think that Andrew and Richard may be a little extreme in their
criticisms of our current administration; on this point they are right. Life
is a gift from GOD (whether one believes in HIM or not); and as such is
something to be treasured and respected. Our Constitution does not GRANT a
single RIGHT to anybody; it exists as a document to PROTECT those rights given
to us by the mere fact or our own existence.

"scrape, scrape, scrape,......putting away the soap box".

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