The Bush Administration has stated that the United States will not be party to the ICC, ostensibly because of concerns that Americans could be prosecuted for political reasons. As the world's sole super power, this anxiety may not be unreasonable; there are undoubtedly nations that would seek to take advantage of the institution as a means of thwarting U.S. interests. Unfortunately, however, there is an undercurrent to this policy that is more sinister.
As it has demonstrated through the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the establishment of the "detainment camp" at Guantanamo Bay, the wholesale internment of Arab and muslim immigrants immediately after September 11th, and the recently passed Military Commissions Act, the Bush White House prefers to be unencumbered by concerns or legal restrictions regarding the rights of individuals. Jose Padilla, for instance, an American citizen imprisoned without trial or access to counsel, is only now grinding haltingly through the justice system because of the tireless work of third parties.
What is important about the cases of Padilla and Partovi is not their guilt or innocence. What matters is that both men have been denied any avenue to state their case in an open forum, and until very recently, have been denied contact with the outside world. While they are now visible, they were once desaparacidos, and of perhaps even greater concern, there remains no record for more than one third of the 1,200 September 11th detainees (from the AP story):
There were still at least 438 other individuals who were not accounted for. Most of those individuals, said Justice Department officials, were released within days. But at least 93 were charged with federal crimes and processed through the courts, and an unknown number were deemed material witnesses.
... military officials labeled as “potential terrorist activity” events like a “Stop the War Now” rally in Akron, Ohio, in March 2005.
The Defense Department acknowledged last year that its analysts had maintained records on war protests in an internal database past the 90 days its guidelines allowed, and even after it was determined there was no threat.
A department spokesman said Thursday that the “questionable data collection” had led to a tightening of military procedures to ensure that only information relevant to terrorism and other threats was collected. The spokesman, Maj. Patrick Ryder, said in response to the release of the documents that the department “views with great concern any potential violation” of the policy.
“There is nothing more important or integral to the effectiveness of the U.S. military than the trust and good will of the American people,” Major Ryder said.
A document first disclosed last December by NBC News showed that the military had maintained a database, known as Talon, containing information about more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” around the country in 2004 and 2005. Dozens of alerts on antiwar meetings and peaceful protests appear to have remained in the database even after analysts had decided that they posed no threat to military bases or personnel.
- The American government has monitored peaceful, democratic dissent as an adverserial activity.
- The government has labeled peaceful, democratic dissent as a threat to national security.
- The government cannot be depended on to protect the welfare - or even to know the location - of anyone imprisoned in, or by, the United States.
- Those imprisoned by the government are no longer guaranteed the opportunity to prove their innocence.
- American citizens can be imprisoned without any access to the outside world and denied access to counsel, all at the whim of the President.