Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Patriot Act for liberals...

This relates to the topic of a paper for a class here, but I found this interesting: David Passaro, a contractor to the CIA charged with torturing a man to death in Iraq, was recently charged under a provision of the Patriot Act which grants federal jurisdiction to crimes that happen on, inter alia, U.S. military installations abroad. It's an "odd" use of the Act, at least insofar as certain liberals who claim not to like the Act are loathe to condemn this use of it. He was charged in federal district court in Raleigh, and the Raleigh News and Observer had an article about it entitled, "The Patriot Act is Bad, Right?" Legal observers are "troubled" by this use of the Act according to the Associated Press.

In case anyone is curious, Supreme Court precedent holds that civilians cannot be court-martialed except in a time of war, and "time of war" has been construed by the Court of Military Appeals to mean a declared war. The Military Extraterrorial Jurisdiction Act applies to civilian contractors of the Department of Defense, but Passaro was a CIA contractor, and the CIA is not in the Department of Defense. He might have been able to be charged under the War Crimes Act, which provides for federal jurisdiction over crimes defined in the Hague and Vienna conventions, but that Act is untested and somewhat difficult to apply. Thus, the Patriot Act might have been the "best" route to use here - although when it was enacted, of course, I doubt Congress thought it would be used against U.S. soldiers.

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