Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Guantanamo Bay’

Remembering the Rosenbergs

Posted by sanityinjection on September 17, 2008

Ronald Radosh of the LA Times has a new piece up revisiting the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, two of the most famous – and controversial – accused Russian spies of the 20th century:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-radosh17-2008sep17,0,490961.story

For those whose American history classes never made it forward to the 1950s, the Rosenberg trial was the O.J. Simpson trial of its day. America was not only awash in anti-Communist fears, but American soldiers were fighting and dying in a war against a Communist nation (North Korea). The trial captured the attention of the whole country. The Rosenbergs were found guilty of espionage and executed in 1953. However, the American Left insisted for decades that the Rosenbergs were innocent victims of McCarthyist Red-baiting hysteria, making them martyrs to the rights and freedoms the Left felt were being sacrificed to the Cold War.

55 years later, with the benefit of significant evidence that was not available at the time of the trial, Radosh concludes beyond any doubt that Julius Rosenberg was in fact an active Soviet spy. However, his wife Ethel’s role was probably far less significant than it was made out to be at the time. Radosh maintains that Julius’ execution was justfied, but although she certainly aided and abetted her husband, Ethel’s conviction and execution do not stand up to modern standards of criminal procedure.

This conclusion is particularly satisfying to me, mirroring as it does the results of my own investigation conducted many years ago for my high school history class, albeit with less access to evidence 🙂 Julius Rosenberg can now join Alger Hiss as evidence that, despite their deplorable excesses, the Communist spy probes of the 1940s and 1950s were not without justification. One need not choose between defending the demagogue McCarthy and his cronies, or refusing to acknowledge the reality of Soviet espionage in America, which was far more advanced than most Americans realize.

There is an obvious parallel here in the Guantanamo Bay trials. One need not agree with everything the government has done in its handling of the Guantanamo detainees, but that does not mean that those incarcerated there are innocent victims. Islamic terrorism, like Soviet espionage, is all too real.

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Are US military tribunals fair?

Posted by sanityinjection on August 6, 2008

The big news today is the conviction of Osama bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan, on terrorism charges in the first full military trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. I have seen a few articles on this, but (not surprisingly) I think the WashPost does the best job of presenting a complete picture of the trial:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/06/AR2008080601092_pf.html

There has been much concern expressed by civil liberties types about whether military trials will be fair to the defendants. These concerns are not totally without foundation. For example, the military tribunal considered statements Hamdan made during interrogation, which he was not warned could later be used against him. (A civilian criminal would have to have been read his rights, or “Mirandized”, and if he had not been, the statements would have been inadmissible in court.) However, the military judge did throw out certain statements made by Hamdan which he called “highly coercive”.

I find there is substantial evidence to suggest that the military is doing its best to conduct these trials fairly. Consider the following:

  • The defense had the opportunity to question and dismiss jurors just as in a civilian trial.
  • Defense lawyers were able to call eight witnesses to testify on Hamdan’s behalf, two of whom were permitted to testify in secret for their own protection, which is very rarely allowed in civilian trials.
  • Unlike in civilian criminal trials, where defendants are often represented by underpaid and undermotivated public defenders, Hamdan’s lawyers are experts with experience defending clients in military tribunals.
  • The verdicts did not come quickly but only after three full days of deliberation by the 6-person military jury.
  • Hamdan was convicted of “material support of terrorism” but acquitted of a more serious charge of conspiracy.
  • Contrary to international rumor, the charge Hamdan was convicted of carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and is not subject to the death penalty. There will be a sentencing hearing conducted very similarly to a civilian sentencing hearing.
  • Hamdan’s conviction is automatically appealed to a military appellate court. Following that, Hamdan’s attorneys can further appeal to the civilian federal Court of Appeals and even to the Supreme Court.

I doubt that Hamdan will get a life sentence. Even prosecutors acknowledge that Hamdan is a relatively small fish in the terrorist pond. That’s why they wanted him to be the first guinea pig.

Article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/06/AR2008080601092_pf.html

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