While the Bush Administration has, from time to time, done things which are – ahem – ethically questionable, it has usually made at least a half-hearted attempt to cover them with a veneer of legality.
Occasionally, however, it will throw aside any such pretensions. Take Sami Al-Arian, a man who should never have been imprisoned in the first place, who has spent the last five years in jail under conditions decried by Amnesty International as "gratuitously punitive," whose prison term ended on April 11th, and who is nevertheless still being held behind bars.
On what basis can he still be held in jail? Well...the government hasn't quite sorted that one out yet. I called the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the other day (since April 11th, Dr. Al-Arian has been under their jurisdiction), and asked them what the deal was. "We have some procedures to take care of which might take up to 90 days." (Mind you, the ICE has known since December that Dr. Al-Arian was scheduled to be deported in April) Right...because it takes 90 days in addition to five full months of preparation to unlock a man's cell, get him on a plane, and wave goodbye. In all fairness to the ICE, though, they are probably preparing a surprise going-away party and need that extensive period to find a date that suits all of Dr. Al-Arian's closest friends – you know, John Ashcroft, Paul I. Perez, and – last, but not least! – the Presidente himself. (if you don't believe me, check this out)
So at this very moment, Dr. Al-Arian is sitting in jail without a prison term, without a charge, without any serious attempt at any sort of legal justification. Just sitting there - no particular reason.
If you fear that the Bush Administration is trying to undermine the rule of law, fear not! It is working hard to come up with a new charge that will provide legal cover for Dr. Al-Arian's continued incarceration: last month, a federal judge in Virginia summoned Dr. Al-Arian to testify before a third grand jury; Dr. Al-Arian refused to testify, and can accordingly be charged with criminal contempt, a charge which carries a minimum sentence of five years.
Never mind that Dr. Al-Arian's plea agreement with the government from 2006 clearly exempts him from having to testify; never mind that the government attorney who sought his testimony essentially put a neon sign above the court room that read "Perjury trap"; never mind that this same attorney revels not only in his hatred of Muslims but also in his alleged right to use legal loopholes to punish people he dislikes but can't find guilty in a court of law. NEVER MIND. What's important is that, in a few days or less, the government will have the legality it needs to lengthen Dr. Al-Arian's sentence for at least five more years, possibly a decade, possibly longer. (I discussed these irrelevant trivialities in a previous post)
OK, granted that Dr. Al-Arian never supported terrorism, that he never broke any laws, that he never should have been in jail in the first place, or that he is being punished solely for exercising his First Amendment rights. What's important is that the Bush administration will soon have this covered by a legality so that us law-abiding citizens can sleep soundly at night knowing that we don't have to worry about the rule of law being threatened in any way.
If you are one of those far left-wing fanatics who think that the rule of law is somehow important to our society, you could do the following:
1) Sign the petition to free Dr. Al-Arian.
2) Call Vincent Archibeque (the Assistant Field Officer of the ICE for Virginia), and politely ask him to release and deport Dr. Al-Arian ASAP: (703) 285-6221.
3) Call the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in the Department of Homeland Security and ask them to ensure that Dr. Al-Arian is released and deported ASAP: (866) 664-8360 (press 1 for English and then 5 to leave a message).
4) Email the Attorney General: ASKDOJ@usdoj.gov (letter template available here).
5) Visit this page for other ways to help.