The Department of (in)Justice Follies Continue

In case you’re just tuning in to this particular bit of judicial tomfoolery, a generally goofy French national named Zacarias Moussaoui has been on trial for quite some time for being, ostensibly, the “20th Man” in the 9/11 plot. Well, I say trial; what’s really happening is that the Jusice Department is being embarrassed by a man everyone thought was crazy as a loon when this whole thing started (an impression fueled in part by his insistence on representing himself).

The worm began to turn, however, when Moussaoui refused to go quietly to what would have been — and still may be — his ultimate doom. The prosecution, citing nebulous “national security” concerns, continues to refuse to allow Mr. Moussaoui to depose their star witness — a witness who may well have exculpatory evidence (essentially, that he was too nutty for Al Queda to trust in the plot). As I sincerely hope we all remember from civics, the right to confront and question the witnesses for the prosecution is a key portion of the judicial process in this country. Accordingly, Justice’s refusal to comply with basic Constitutional law has earned them harsh words from the presiding judge, Leonie Brinkema. In a January 31 ruling, the prosecution was ordered to allow the deposition. They have refused to comply, so next week Judge Brinkema will impose sanctions — which could extend all the way to outright dimissal of the charges.

Of course, if that happens, the government will probably just trot Mr. Moussaoui off to a military tribunal, where the standards are much more lax and appeal isn’t an option — and where the death penalty is virtually assured.

Pay attention, people; these rights have to matter and be honored by our government even when it’s inconvenient for them to be rights at all.

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