Monday, November 19, 2001

Don’t deny rights to
accused terrorists

The issue: President Bush ordered that
alleged terrorists be tried in military tribunals.

CONGRESS has had to temper Attorney General John Ashcroft's zeal in using a wartime rationale to undermine the nation's legal standards. Disappointed with congressional action on anti-terrorist legislation, the Bush administration has opted for executive orders to circumvent Congress in trying to deny constitutional rights to suspected terrorists. American unity in support of the campaign against terrorism seems to have produced an arrogance in the White House that should be brought under control.

Soon after the Sept. 11 attack, Congress provided the Justice Department with tools to fight terrorism but stopped short of granting martial-law powers. The administration has rounded up more than 1,100 aliens and held them indefinitely as part of an investigation into terrorism. Ashcroft has signed an order that allows him to eavesdrop on conversations between suspects and attorneys.

Those are shortcuts compared with the notion of the president of the United States designating an alien to be shuttled away into a kangaroo military court where two-thirds of a panel may determine guilt and impose the death penalty -- that, after a trial that included hearsay, and with no right of appeal. The order is a dangerous attempt to short-circuit the judicial system.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he would move in a "very measured and conservative" way to establish procedures for such trials, but that's not Rumsfeld's job. Transferring criminal proceedings from the judicial system to a military base or warships at sea for trials that could be conducted in secrecy is unacceptable.

The order has been criticized across a broad political spectrum, from the liberal People for the American Way Foundation to William Safire, the conservative columnist for The New York Times. On the Senate floor, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania demanded congressional hearings and Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, quickly agreed, saying he will hold them soon after Thanksgiving.

President Bush's selection of Ashcroft, formerly a Republican senator from Missouri, as attorney general raised concerns that the president was trying to appease the conservative wing of the GOP. Not only has Ashcroft validated those concerns at this most sensitive of times, but the president seems to have followed Ashcroft's extremist course. It is time for President Bush to seek moderate legal advice and to fit Ashcroft with reins.

Maui attracts new
motion pictures

The issue: A film festival lures
Hollywood to the Valley Isle to premiere
their Oscar contenders.

Maui will capture some Hollywood flash with the premieres next month of big-budget movies with big-name stars shown on the biggest 35mm screen in Hawaii. The FirstLight Academy Screenings will add panache to the glistening image of the Valley Isle on Hawaii's otherwise dim tourist scene. The film showings come on the heels of Conde Nast Traveler magazine's designation of Maui as the best tropical island in the world -- for the eighth year in a row.

Dengue fever aside, Maui deserves a tip of the lauhala hat.

The screenings, presented for the third year by the Maui Film Festival, feature movies that have the potential for Academy Awards. Festival director Barry Rivers has used his contacts and his "schmooze-ability," so necessary in Hollywood circles, to snatch 33 films this year, compared to 18 last year. Many of the films will debut here before their commercial release elsewhere.

Among the movies expected to receive critical praise are "The Royal Tenebaums," starring a trio of Oscar winners: Anjelica Huston, Gene Hackman and Gwyneth Paltrow. "The Shipping News," an adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's novel, features Kevin Spacey, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, Oscar winners all.

Film studios release their would-be Academy projects in the winter, but Hollywood types retreat from Los Angeles during the season. Rivers has craftily lured film showings to his Maui lair by taking advantage of the penchant entertainment-industry people have for the island in December and providing studios with a top-notch venue for their offerings: a 41- by 27-foot screen at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center.

As a sidelight, Hawaii film buffs get a chance to see the cream of the Hollywood movie crop shortly after their dose of the largely independent film genre presented by the Hawaii International Film Festival. Together the festivals present two months of movies to entice residents and tourists, a strong selling point for the state.

Meanwhile, University of Hawaii president Evan Dobelle has been keen on a developing a degree program in film and television, and a filmmakers' organization has set up a partnership with the University of Southern California film program, offering courses and workshops at Maui Community College facilities.

If the state can parlay all this movie-related activity properly, Maui may have an opportunity for cameras to roll toward a fresh industry.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

Richard Halloran, editorial page director, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, contributing editor 294-3533;

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