Number 201, December 2, 2002


Fifth Amendment?
by Dennis Kabaczy

Exclusive to TLE

Want to see the future of interrogation? Look no further than Oxnard, California, where Oliverio Martinez has filed a lawsuit, against the Oxnard Police. [See also LIBBYTES below - ed.]

It seems that Mr. Martinez, after being shot by police five times, was then questioned until he became unconscious. From even before he was loaded into the ambulance, until he became unconscious in the emergency room. "He (has) sued the Oxnard police for illegal arrest, the use of excessive force and coercive interrogation in police custody." [source]

Now along with the assaults on our first, second, and fourth amendment rights, comes another assault on the fifth, specifically, the right to remain silent. The really scary quote from the same article: "The Bush administration has sided with the Oxnard police in the case. Police can hold people in custody and force them to talk, (emphasis mine) so long as their incriminating statements are not used to prosecute them, argues a brief to the court filed by U.S. Solicitor Gen. Theodore Olson and Michael Chertoff, the chief of the Justice Department's criminal division."

Bring out the thumbscrews, rubber hoses and electric cattle prods; it's ok to force us to talk. Many will say that torture will "never happen here". Well, the subject has already been broached, concerning terrorists, in the Atlantic Monthly, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, as well as in a poll at The interesting thing about this poll is, that even though only just over 1500 people responded, only 35% felt torture of terrorists should never be permitted.

Now, as we have all seen, the government is very good at taking laws or policies that are meant for one thing, and applying them to another, when it's convenient. Asset forfeiture is the classic example. It was only to be used against "drug king pins" to prevent them from using their fortunes to leave the country. Now, it's being used in Wayne County, Michigan, to take private vehicles from men accused of soliciting for prostitution. (The willingness of persons to engage in a market transaction that hurts no one, except possibly themselves, and government intrusion into that transaction, is another article.)

But to get back to the original point, in Olson and Chertoff's quote above, no mention is made of the circumstances of the crime. One must therefore conclude that the crime doesn't matter; to "force them to talk" is ok under any circumstances. You just can't use the information for prosecution. Just like it's illegal to keep a record of firearms purchasers. You know, the same Brady Bill information they're not supposed to keep, which will go into their TIA database. ([source])

Let's look at how it might go, and I'll use the poll as a jump off point. Nine percent of the people felt it would be ok to torture terrorists to prevent future attacks. Seven percent thought it was ok to torture terrorists to prevent future attacks, and to get the names of other terrorists. 47% thought it would be ok to torture terrorists to obtain confessions. Not all of these scenarios involve loss of life. It would be easy for the government to say, in a kidnapping for example, "We need to torture the suspect so he'll tell us where the victim is and we can save her." Under Olson and Chertoff's standard, this would be ok, as long as the information was not used to "prosecute" the alleged perpetrator.

Let's take it another step. Let us consider the area of political dissent, specifically, those persons most critical of the government. Some of us have even raised the question as to whether violence in response to government abuses is acceptable. Now let us presume that a series of violent actions against the government, or terrorist attacks against civilians is executed. Would some of us, or our friends possibly be brought in for questioning? How friendly do you think that questioning would be? Should we not "confess" because we truly didn't know anything, do you think the coercion could get just a mite more aggressive?

Another chapter in the ongoing saga of Amerika's transformation into a police state.


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