Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Walker, Treason, Words, Actions, and the Bill of Rights

The very funny Larry Miller has a piece in the current Daily Standard on the pathetic John Walker. As many have, he stresses Walker's saying he supported September 11 and the USS Cole attack. It's a big mistake. Those remarks, detestable as they are, do not make up an element of any crime charged, nor of treason, and are as irrelevant as his lawyers' and parents' current protestations that "John loves America." (While one might argue persuasively that the remarks show a state of mind predisposed to the acts Walker is charged with, a fair judge would exclude the remarks as their prejudicial impact outweighs the probative value.) Irritating as it is, this mutt is an American citizen, and he enjoys the right to free speech. He must be convicted based on his actions. If the proof of those actions makes out a case for treason, as it seems to me it should, unless Marcia Clark is assigned to prosecute, then by all means hang him. However, the end of appropriately judging this case is not served by taking the easy route and concentrating on Walker's words. Indeed, such runs the risk of playing into a defense argument that the government, lacking proof of treasonous acts, seeks to punish Walker for his odious views

Nor does attacking the defense of civil liberties by lambasting every conservative's favorite whipping boy, the ACLU, advance the ball. Vigorous support of the Bill of Rights is not inconsistent with vigorous patriotism, nor with robust law enforcement, whether against the common thief or a creature like Walker. It is, in fact, the height of informed patriotism to insist that we can and will enforce the laws to protect our society in a manner consistent with fundamental notions of fairness and justice. Viewing the Bill of Rights as an impediment to justice shows a lack of understanding, a lack of faith, or both.