America strikes back at
The issue: The U.S. military has begun
bombing terrorist targets in Afghanistan.
The wrath of an angry America was loosed yesterday on the terrorist Osama bin Laden, his al-Qaida gang of thugs and the Taliban regime that has given them and other terrorists haven in Afghanistan. They are but the latest aggressors who have miscalculated the consequences of what President Eisenhower called "the fury of an aroused democracy."
Yet the strike ordered by President Bush was a calibrated measure of force and far from the full might of American power. Only 15 bombers, 25 attack planes from aircraft carriers and 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck military targets. It was just a sample of things to come unless the terrorists capitulate to U.S. demands.
The message to the terrorists in Afghanistan and everywhere else was clear: Give it up or suffer a similar fate.
The attack was coupled with the beginnings of a humanitarian plan to help the long-oppressed and suffering Afghans. The contrast with the merciless murder of 6,000 innocent civilians by the suicidal hijackers of commercial jetliners on Sept. 11 could not have been more distinct.
Moreover, the military action was part of a comprehensive political, diplomatic, economic and psychological campaign, some overt and other covert, intended to crush the terrorist networks, their financiers and those who harbor them. There were hints in official briefings yesterday that the campaign would not be limited to terrorists in Afghanistan.
The saddened families of those lost in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, of every nationality, could take a small amount of satisfaction that the victims have been avenged, although nothing can bring them back or fill the yawning holes they have left behind.
President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have skillfully assembled a coalition of allies and supporters, to whom Americans should feel grateful -- Britain, Canada, Germany, France and other European nations. In Asia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and India have offered support in one form or another.
A special word of thanks should go to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, where the terrorists and the Taliban have many supporters. In agreeing to help the United States, Musharraf has risked the survival of his government and, indeed, his own life in a land where political assassination has been commonplace.
Finally, a quiet word of gratitude to all Americans who had a hand in planning and executing this strike, military and civilian, men and women, generals and privates. Your compatriots are proud of you.
Court access needed to
assure civil liberties
The issue: Secret legal proceedings
have become routine in terrorism inquiry.
EXTRAORDINARY, but apparently legal, measures are being taken in detaining hundreds of people in the investigation of terrorist activities. It is not only the biggest criminal investigation in U.S. history but perhaps the most secretive. The patience that Americans are being asked to exercise in the war against terrorism should not apply to the level of secrecy that has engulfed the criminal-justice system since Sept. 11.
The Justice Department reports that 580 people have been arrested or detained in connection with terrorism since the attacks on New York and Washington. Many are being held as material witnesses under a seldom-used section of the criminal code. None has been charged with a crime directly related to the attacks.
Authorities have been sealing search warrants and conducting hearings behind closed doors on grounds of national security or to protect grand jury investigations. In what is thought to be a typical case in San Diego, a judge conducted a closed hearing on whether three college students could be held as material witnesses in a terror case, sealing even his order that justified the secrecy.
"One of the things that this secrecy deprives you of knowing is just how far and energetically the government is biting into constitutionally protected activity," says Terry Francke, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 allows judges to seal warrants for national security reasons. It appears to have been used routinely in the past three weeks.
Civil liberties are more likely to be abridged under such a cloak of secrecy. Concerns have been raised about whether those being rounded up have been allowed to contact lawyers, although both the Justice Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service insist that detainees are advised of their rights. However, lawyer Gerald H. Goldstein says his client, San Antonio radiologist Albader Al-Hazmi, was held incommunicado for six days.
"This is a good lesson about how frail our processes are," Goldstein told the Washington Post. "It's how we treat people in difficult times like these that is the true test of the democracy and civil liberties that we brag so much about throughout the world."
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