The Pernicious Doctrine of “Accusation Equals Guilt”
by Ted Galen Carpenter, CATO Institute
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Equating mere allegations of misconduct with definitive evidence is a growing habit in the United States. That tendency is most prevalent regarding national security matters, and the trend has been building since the onset of the so-called war on terror following the 9-11 attacks.
Conservatives are especially prone to assert that “terrorists” are not entitled to constitutional rights, even if they are American citizens. The obvious problem with that argument is that until a fair and impartial trial is held, the individuals in question are merely accused terrorists. The whole point of due process is to determine whether a defendant is guilty or not.
Alarmingly, George W. Bush’s administration asserted the authority to jail suspected terrorists without trial or even a hearing before an independent tribunal. In the case of Jose Padilla, an American citizen apprehended at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the government designated him an “enemy combatant” and held him (as well as inflicted torture) for nearly four years at a military prison in South Carolina before bringing charges to a grand jury. Even then, the administration’s belated application of due process occurred only in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s prodding.
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Us little L libertarians should be constantly nagging about “our process”, “innocent until proven guilty”, and ‘limited government”.
We can go through a list of liberty impairing actions:
- “no fly” list
- “civil asset forfeiture”
- gun laws
- IRS abuses
- Marijuana prohibition
- “free speech zones”
- Congressional corruption
- farm subsidies
- “welfare / warfare” state
- the “deep state”
and on and on ad nauseam!
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