January 29, 2010
Treating Terrorists Like Ordinary Americans
Much has been written and said recently about the Christmas Day would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being granted the same rights as ordinary American citizens. If only he were treated so poorly.
Before he could be thoroughly interrogated by special terrorism experts, the man Rush Limbaugh called the "Fruit of Kaboom" Bomber was read Miranda rights and stopped talking less than twenty-four hours after his apprehension, depriving U.S. intelligence officers of badly needed information on the threat posed by al-Qaeda in Yemen. He was accorded rights reserved for American citizens awaiting their day in court. Now American taxpayers have to pay for his trial and defense attorneys rather than a swift (and cheaper) military tribunal.
Abdulmutallab doesn't deserve these rights -- he's not an American, nor is he a criminal. He's an enemy combatant engaged in terrorist activities on the equivalent of American soil, and he deserves to be treated no better than FDR treated German saboteurs captured on American soil during World War II in Operation Pastorius. Less than two months after Pastorius started, the eight enemy combatants were captured and sentenced to death. Two of the men had their sentences commuted for their cooperation, and the other six were executed.
Contrast Abdulmutallab's treatment by U.S. authorities with those German terrorists captured in America. Or, for that matter consider how the state of Georgia has dealt with one of its own native sons, a man named Frank Hatley. Frank recently spent more than a year incarcerated in the county jail. His alleged crime? He owed the state money for being a "deadbeat dad".
Wow, a whole year in jail for unpaid child support...sounds bad, doesn't it? Just wait -- it gets much, much worse.
Georgia has a law that allows the state to collect funds from the non-custodial parent to recover funds paid out for public support, a law with the noble intention of reducing the burden on the average taxpayer to support illegitimate children receiving public assistance. So far, so good.
During the 1980s, Hatley had a sexual relationship with Essie Lee Morrison, who got pregnant and identified him as the biological father when she applied for public assistance from the Department of Human Resources. In accordance with state law, government attorneys filed a motion and received a court order requiring Hatley to pay child support, which he agreed to do, believing the child was his. Hatley paid well over $10,000 in support before a paternity test proved in 2000 that he didn't father the child.
After the test confirmed he was not responsible, for another eight years Hatley paid another $6,000 in support for a child he didn't father until he lost his job. He became homeless and lived out of his car. Nevertheless, he continued to pay child support from his unemployment benefits. But it wasn't enough to satisfy the government.
Even though Special Assistant State Attorney General Charles Reddick knew he was not the father and the court order he prepared acknowledged it, he pursued Hatley for another $16,398 he "owed" the state for uncompensated child support paid to Morrison. Judge Dane Perkins signed the order, and Hatley was locked up from June 2008 until July 2009. The only reason he was released after a year in jail was because Sheriff Johnny Daughtry, who was sympathetic to Hadley's plight, alerted visiting lawyers from the Southern Center for Human Rights to this travesty of justice.
Court filings stipulated that Hatley was never told he could have a court-appointed lawyer if he wanted one the entire time he was incarcerated. Abdulmutallab was told he had the right to a free attorney only hours after he tried to blow up a plane and kill several hundred Americans over our soil on Christmas Day. A spokesman for the state attorney general's office said that if Hatley could have shown he was indigent, the state would not have opposed his request to have the court order lifted and be released from jail. The spokesman added that Hatley had never requested a hearing.
When Hatley was finally released, Judge Perkins postponed any decision on whether or not he would have to make future child support payments for a child he didn't father. How magnanimous of the judge! The question obviously isn't whether or not it is just and fair to the man, but instead whether the state legally get away with it.
An entire year of Hatley's life was taken from him, and the opinion of the attorney general who persecuted him and the judge who allowed it seems to be "Gee, sucks for him, doesn't it?"
As attorney Sarah Geraghty aptly pointed out, "This is a case of excessive zeal to recover money trumping common sense. What possible reason could the state have to pursue Mr. Hatley for child support when he does not have any children?"
And what exactly is Morrison's role and responsibility in providing for this child, or for naming the real father? Does she even know who the real father is?
It's fair to point out that federal authorities botched the Abdulmutallab case while it was a state government who persecuted an innocent man in pursuit of the almighty dollar, but is it surprising that the government cares more about how to separate you from your hard-earned money than how to protect you from harm? If the federal government were more focused on terrorism than health care reform or cap-and-trade, would Abdulmutallab have held a valid visa for entry into the U.S.? An article posted on CNN.com contains the following statement, attributed (of course) to an anonymous U.S. official:
If we pulled his visa or banned him from flying that would have alerted him you are onto him. Whereas in some cases if you have a terror lead, you watch to see what happens when he travels, which could be more valuable.
What in God's name is more valuable than two hundred and eighty or more American lives, pray tell?
John Leonard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His first book, titled Hybrid Theory: Reconciling Creationism and Evolution Theory, is pending publication by epress-online.