Friday, November 19, 2010

Legality theater

"Security theater" has become a more and more popular phrase, especially in connection with airport security -- measures visibly taken to make people feel secure, not because doing them actually makes people more secure.

I should resist too much blogging that is simply re-citing Greenwald, but we just had an example of legality theater. An accused terrorist was put on trial in a civilian court amid much administrative self-congratulation. To quote Greenwald:

Most news accounts are emphasizing that trying Ghailani in a civilian court was intended by the Obama DOJ to be a "showcase" for how effective trials can be in punishing Terrorists. That's a commendable goal, and Holder's decision to try Ghailani in a real court should be defended by anyone who believes in the rule of law and the Constitution. But given these realities, this was more "show trial" than "showcase" since the Government would simply have imprisoned him, likely forever, even if he had been acquitted on all counts.

Yes, the Obama administration claims "post-acquittal detention power", which means that this person was going to be sent to jail indefinitely no matter what. The trial was meaningless.

Or was it? Here's where I disagree with Greenwald: the goal of showcasing how effective show trials can be is not commendable. The trial did have a purpose: to convince the public that we still live under rule of law when we do not. It was legality theater, the replacement of actual rule of law with a formal show intended to represent it.

That is the sorry pass that advocates of Constitutional protections have been brought to. "Please have the show trial, because showing the brutal reality would let the dream of justice die." Some dreams are better off disposed of. Or rather, when the reality behind them is dead, they begin to stink.

1 comment:

  1. Legality theater; featuring another screening at your local TSA outlet.