[News] Coup d'etat of Nov. 13, 2001

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Thu Nov 15 13:04:20 EST 2007


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November 13, 2001: Coup d’etat in America

I am writing this on November 13th.  That day 
probably has little significance for most readers 
of this blog. But it is a day, as they say, that 
should live in infamy. On that date in 2001, two 
months after 9/11, President Bush issued Military 
Order Number 1. 
I remember the shock I awoke to upon reading the 
military order in the newspapers of November 
14th. I remember thinking to myself that there 
has just been a coup d’etat in America, perhaps 
an exaggeration, but nonetheless a watershed 
moment in a country that I still though had some 
semblance of a democracy and of the principle 
that Presidential authority was under law.

            As most of you may not recall the 
order, let me remind you of its three key 
provisions. First,  the President claimed the 
authority to capture, kidnap or otherwise arrest 
any non-citizen (it was later extended to 
citizens) anywhere in the world including the 
United States whom the President believed was 
involved in international terrorism and hold them 
forever without any charges, proceedings or 
trial. Amazing—a person could be held forever 
just because the President wanted them so held; 
he took on the power to disappear people. Second, 
the order did provide that if, and if is the 
crucial word here, if the person was tried (there 
never needed to be a trial) such trials were to 
be held by special ad hoc courts called military 
commissions. These commissions had no resemblance 
to regular trial courts. The entire proceeding 
could take place in secret, with evidence from 
torture, and those found guilty could be executed 
in secret. Third, to the extent the names of 
those imprisoned or tried could be determined and 
lawyers found, no court could hear any 
case.  This order embodies within it the 
violations of fundamental rights we are facing 
today:  indefinite detention without trial, 
Guantanamo, secret sites, special trials and 
disappearances. While it does not mention 
torture, that appears to have come a bit later, a 
secret detention system is part and parcel of a 
torture system.  Let’s also repeat:  this was a 
military order in a society and country that was 
us still or purported to be under civilian rule.

This orders more then any other single document 
embodies our lost liberties. It was this document 
that pushed the Center for Constitutional Rights 
into action. It was this document that made CCR 
begin the historic fight the rights of those who 
would a few months later be imprisoned at 
Guantánamo. We said, despite the hate and the 
anger that ensued, that we would represent the 
first detainees imprisoned under this order and 
we did. 
We are still doing so today. On December 5 the 
latest in the Guantanamo cases will be argued in 
the Supreme Court. We will never give up this fight.

November 13th, 2007 by michael [Ratner]

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