Last week, Terry Gross interviewed journalist Jane Mayer about Attorney General Eric Holder and the politics of terrorism trials. The whole interview is worth listening to, although it’s upsetting to hear the extent to which Republican politicians basically don’t believe in the rule of law (at least the rule of law applying to people they’re scared of: read, terrorists). I always thought the point of the rule of law, at least in theory, is that it applies to people we don’t like as well as people we do: it’s impartial. That’s why it’s a legal system, not system of patronage. We can talk at length about how fucked up the American judicial system is, and how it falls far short of this ideal. But at least that’s an ideal I thought we could all agree on. Apparently not. As Jane Mayer points out:
Basically, the treatment of Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomb suspect, was exactly like the treatment of every other terror suspect who’s been ever been captured inside the United States. It’s completely consistent with the Bush administration’s treatment of terror suspects and previous administration’s treatments of terror suspects. And there really wasn’t a question of sending in the Army or the, you know, the special forces or something and grabbing this man at the airport in Detroit.
A senior administration official in the White House said to me there’s, you know, that there is no alternative justice system. That’s a kind of fantasy that takes place in the show “24” or something. We the Constitution does not allow the military to just come in and take people away to some dark place without any kind of judicial supervision and make them talk – whatever that would really mean.