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|Innocent Until Proven Guilty; and the right to Free Speech|
|Topic Started: Jun 24 2006, 08:54 AM (428 Views)|
|Derek||Jun 24 2006, 08:54 AM Post #1|
It seems as though we may have crossed the line when it comes to pursuing terrorist subjects. According to The Mercury News, suspects whose plans had "barely extended beyond the talking stage" were arrested.
Now, "barely extended" is pretty vague. Were they reading books about explosives in the library? Had the purchased handguns in case they encountered resistance? Were they contacting other people to form a group? Were they making their own explosives?
There are two primary questions I wish to pursue here. The first is, how far do we take "innocent until proven guilty", and the second, "how far do we have freedom of speech?" These of course tie in to the event linked to above, and whether or not these people were treated fairly.
It had always been explained to me that freedom of speech made it fine to talk about overthrowing the government, blowing up buildings, or committing other crimes, unless you were trying to convince other people to actually do it. This seems fair enough to me; otherwise, every time you warn the government that it could be overthrown by a procedure 'X', they could have you thrown in jail as a terrorist. Hell, if you're just sitting around the house and decide to make a plan to see if it's possible (not intending to go through with it), are you suddenly a traitor just for thinking aloud? Again, "barly extended" is pretty vague, but the talking alone should not make them criminals, as far as I can tell.
So now we have "innocent until proven guilty". This of course raises the question, "guilty of what?" Surely if these men did not actually carry out their plan to destroy the buildings, they aren't guilty of destroying the buildings. But what are they guilty of? Conducting research to enhance their plan? Nothing wrong with that. Purchasing handguns? Many people do that for self defense. Forming a group of people for this plan? Here we have a sticky issue. If the group was just talking about it, I think this falls into the freedom of speech argument above. If the group was trying to gain more people with the intent of carrying out the plan, then perhaps they fall into the position where freedom of speech is not protected and should be arrested as traitors. Manufacturing explosives is tricky, too. We don't want to arrest people who are just trying to make some gunpowder to blow up their own property for fun, but at the same time, making loads of more powerful explosives is very dangerous to other people and, if the person in question is not certified to handle such dangerous materials, seems to me to be fair cause for arrest (at the very least, for endangering their neighbors). If there was obvious intent to use the explosives maliciously, then perhaps they ought to be charged with something more.
But on the subject of intent, we run into another problem. If a citizen 'Y' carries a knife outside with the intent of stabbing someone, but changes his mind halfway there and doesn't, do we arrest him for having the intent to stab another person? That seems a bit strange. While it could be dangerous to wait until he actually stabbed the person, arresting him too early might put what would have been an innocent person into jail. How close should we let people come before actually committing a crime? Do we wait until they've acquired all their materials and are moving in? If they've got bombs, they can still do a fair amount of damage even if we intercept them before they make it to their target. Do we arrest them when they buy the materials to make powerful explosives? If so, is that enough to charge them with treason?
One easy way, I think, would be to alert the authorities when someone tries to buy the chemicals needed to make, say, C4. Then the authorities get a warrant, and check to see what the person is up to. This is, of course, not foolproof; buying chemicals one at a time, or buying chemicals from which one can produce the chemicals needed, could circumvent this. And what happens if someone just buys fertilizer?
Being an advocate of personal freedom, I'd say we let it go until we can find suspects without having any sort of wholesale domestic spying programs. Giving the government too much access makes it very easy to turn into a totalitarian state.
|QuelThelos||Jun 24 2006, 09:39 PM Post #2|
From the sounds of it we just need to identify a location where planning becomes action. In my mind, if you say you don't like someone, You vocalize that you don't like someone, thats all fine. Saying that your going to stab someone can be viewed as a threat. This may give rise to a warrent, or a restraining order, but not to charges.
Buying a weapon? good for you, I'm a firm believer that if theres a lot of guns pointed in a lot of directions, nobody will pull a trigger.
The second that you leave your property (and can be proven) with the intent to cause harm to a person, that is where charges begin to apply. Especially if the restraining order is in place.
Just arresting and not charging may delay the act from occuring. Have them spend a night in the holding chamber with a group of drunks or whatever. Let them know we know what they're doing.
I don't think we should be able to jail anyone for a length of time unless they've stabbed/shot someone. Though explosives it's the same once they're placed/armed/detonated.
|"In the democracy of the dead, all men at last are equal. There is neither rank nor station nor prerogative in the republic of the grave." -John James Ingalls|
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