Note: The following column is satire, based on a June 10 press conference at which Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the arrest of Abdullah al Muhajir, a US citizen born in New York, formerly known as Jose Padilla. The point of the satire is that if one US citizen can be jailed with no charges, with no presentation of evidence, with no legal representation, with no end to his imprisonment, then no one is safe-including mainstream political opponents. Ashcroft’s announcement actually was made in Moscow, where he was meeting with Russian police and security officials.
In a dramatic announcement this evening at a hastily-called primetime press conference, Attorney General John Ashcroft revealed the arrest of Senator Tom Daschle as a key figure in a plot to bring down the Bush administration.
In announcing the arrest, Ashcroft termed Daschle “an undercover terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or ‘dirty bomb,’ in the United States.” President Bush has issued an executive order, in his capacity as commander in chief, declaring Daschle an “enemy combatant who poses a serious and continued threat to the American people and our national security.” The prisoner was taken from his Washington, DC jail cell, put on a government plane, and flown to Charleston, South Carolina, where he was incarcerated in a US Navy brig.
No evidence has been produced by the government to substantiate its charges. Ashcroft gave no indication that such evidence will be forthcoming. Legal experts say that the absence of evidence is of little moment, since Daschle will not be given a trial or opportunity to defend himself in an adversarial proceeding. Indeed, until contacted by reporters, Daschle’s own attorney was unaware of his transfer, and has been denied all access to his client.
Under the executive order, Daschle can be jailed indefinitely-i.e., until the “war on terrorism” ends. Key figures in the Bush administration say that the “war” is likely to go on for decades.
Asked about what appear to be clear violations of such elementary legal principles as the presumption of innocence and the right of habeas corpus, Ashcroft replied that it was vital “to balance the security needs of the American people against the small sacrifices necessary to successfully prosecute this war.” Calling Daschle’s arrest “a significant step forward in the preservation of our freedoms,” Ashcroft declared this “a day when we can all be proud to be Americans.”
Daschle's arrest will tip the balance of the Senate to Republican control, giving dominance of all branches of government to the most rabid conservative figures. Administration spokesmen brushed off any hints that the arrest might be politically motivated. Ashcroft made the announcement in Red Square, Moscow, where he was surrounded by admiring Russian media personnel. “This all sounds so familiar,” said one Russian bystander, who declined to be identified.
© Tony Russell, 2002