Saturday, November 12, 2005

Here is the e-mail letter I sent to Senator Burr regarding the Graham Screw Human Rights Amendment (link to Ben's blog). I would have sent it snail-mail, but there was no chance in hell it was going to get there by Monday. I sent a shorter version to Senator Dole, since her e-mail interface only accepts shorter letters. Chance that either will read it: scant. But it's worth a shot.

Senator Burr,

First, allow me to commend you for your support for the McCain Amendment. Your vote in this matter clearly demonstrates your concern for human rights and your desire to ensure that we conduct the war on terror in the most effective way possible. By voting for this amendment, you have made a statement that you do not wish us to sink to the moral levels of our opposition in the conduct of this global struggle.

I am dismayed, however, by your support for the Graham Amendment, which strips the federal courts of the jurisdiction to hear statutory habeas corpus pleas. This ensures that those detained in foreign countries and brought to Guantanamo Bay will not be able to challenge their detention in the courts.

I appreciate the importance of the aforementioned detentions in the conduct of the war on terror. However, suspending the habeas rights of these detainees weakens our ability to successfully struggle against terrorism by undermining our claim to moral superiority and by providing terrorist recruiters with another tool to stoke the fires of anti-American hatred within young Muslim men.

The right to challenge one's imprisonment is just as fundamental a human right as the right to be treated humanely while in detention, a right for which you expressed support when you voted for the McCain Amendment. There can be no claim of perfection here; therefore, though most of the detainees are terrorists, many of those imprisoned at Guantanamo were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. In order to ensure that we are detaining the right people, all those detained must be allowed to challenge their detention. To deny detainees these rights is tantamount to saying that the wrongful imprisonment of innocent people is acceptable.

Allowing detainees to challenge their status in court will not only ensure that we do not detain anyone wrongly, but will also ensure that our interrogations are only conducted upon those with actual information. Imagine the waste - not to mention the embarrassment - of interrogating someone who has never been a terrorist about supposed terrorist activities! If we institute a process by which the wrongfully detained are freed and the rightfully detained are held, we avoid much of this waste of resources. Furthermore, any information that comes out during the challenge can be utilized by intelligence agencies as well.

Finally, the specter of indefinite wrongful imprisonment looms large over the heads of those who may be subjected to it. Terrorist recruiters will almost certainly distort any unjust detentions into evidence that America is attacking the Muslim world and thus should be destroyed. In order to win the war on terror, we must not only destroy existing terrorists but prevent new terrorists from being recruited. Allowing detainees access to the courts will reassure those who fear that they may be next that justice will be served, and that if they avoid participating in terrorism, they will not be hurt.

It is apparent that the Graham Amendment undermines our claims to moral superiority and harms our ability to conduct the war on terror in an efficient and effective manner. I have heard that your colleague from New Mexico, Jeff Bingaman, is planning to offer an amendment on Monday that would reverse, at least in part, the Graham Amendment. For the sake of our consciences and for the sake of our struggle against violent extremists, I urge you to support Mr. Bingaman's efforts.

Thank you for your time,
Jeff Woodhead

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