That said, it is only an improvement on our situation if the constitution is not ignored.
This week we have seen an amazing power grab by the US Attorney General. To quote Eric Holder:
“Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”Here is what the constitution says (Fifth Amendment):
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.I have - for the benefit of the Attorney General - highlighted the relevant section.
Incidentally I have quite a deal of sympathy for extra-judicial execution of a dangerous criminal. "Wanted, dead or alive" posters have been part of the American mythology for a reason. But I gather there was a valid arrest warrant for the person and if the person surrendered there was a legal process. These are I presume "processes of law" rather than (say) a process of the executive. The executive claiming that their process is sufficient to execute someone is - politely - novel.
But it is not the big cases that worry me about America. Its the little cases because through the little cases you can see the erosion of the liberties that made America great affecting ordinary citizens.
Linked is the New York Post article about Anna Gristina - the alleged New York madam with a roster of high class clients. Sure I was reading it for salacious details of who the clients might be. However I found myself getting more annoyed at the process.
You see she is innocent until proven guilty - and she is being locked up in solitary confinement on Rikers Island. Seems rough. But it was the statement that she was being held in lieu of $2 million bond that got me. She is a mother of four with deep connections to the United States. It is going to be hard to argue she is a major flight risk.
But somehow a $2 million bond (way more than most people could post) has been asked. This leads me to the eighth amendment:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Somehow we have come to the conclusion that $2 million is not excessive bail. That I am puzzled by. When did America come to the conclusion that unless you were very rich you should be locked up pending trial for victimless crimes? What is it about the new American culture that does not think that $2 million bail is excessive?
Does anybody care or is Anna Gristina just another person arrested by police and hence guilty until proven innocent?
PS. If I had to guess the bail for a similar case in Australia - it would be bailed on her own surety (that is zero dollars). Australia's lack of a bill of rights looks pretty good here.