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Eliot Spitzer's Constitutional Hang-up

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New York inaugurated a new governor last night, and many liberals here and across the country are excited about the prospect of having a celebrated K Street watchdog scale the ranks of the Democratic Party. Voters ushered Spitzer into office in unprecedented fashion last November, with almost 70% casting their vote for his sweeping crusade. Spitzer, like young Barack Obama, is often seen as the face of a new, invigorated Democratic Party ┬ľ one that isn't afraid to shine its progressive credentials. Eliot Spitzer, unfortunately, is anything but progressive. In many ways he is not even a reformer.

Sure he's stood up for abortion rights and against tax cuts for the rich, but that's right about where Spitzer's political ideology plummets into Bushland. He unashamedly supports the neocons' war on terror, salutes the racist death penalty as a just punishment, and perhaps most telling of all, Spitzer was one of the chief architects of the New York version of the fear provoked PATRIOT Act.

Shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Gov. Pataki along with Attorney General Spitzer wrote the grossly overreaching Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001. Much like the federal PATRIOT Act, the Anti-Terrorism Act attempted to curtail our civil liberties in the name of national defense.

The Act sanctions "roving" wiretaps of US citizens, expands the definition of terrorist activity to include money laundering, and eliminates the statute of limitations for all "terrorist" offenses. The Act also permits the prosecution of suspects despite a pending or prior federal prosecution, and among further offensives, Spitzer and Pataki's bill prevents suspects from being freed due to a "technicality," i.e. an unlawful action made by investigators and law enforcement officials in complying with federal search and seizure regulations.

Apparently a "technicality" to Spitzer is synonymous with "Constitutional hang-up." And that's a dangerous path for any state to travel down, especially when a savvy prosecutor is at the helm. By eliminating Constitutional rights, terror suspects will not be presented with fair, impartial trials. Indeed their guaranteed rights will not assured at all -- their rights will be restricted in the name of terror prevention.

As governor, will Spitzer also attempt to make New York a place where we have access to neither a fair trial, nor adequate counsel? Will New York become a state where Constitutional rights are viewed as "technicalities" that get in the way of a prosecutor's case? Spitzer seems to hope so, for it will make prosecutors' jobs a heck-of-a-lot easier. No longer will they have to abide by the pesky Bill of Rights when trying terrorism suspects. And of course, who is, and who is not deemed a "terrorist" is solely decided by government prosecutors, not citizen juries.

Given Eliot Spitzer's national political ambitions, the future New York governor must be held accountable. Let's let Spitzer know we don't agree with his Constitution wrecking behaviors by making sure he doesn't employ further measures in the quest to destroy our civil liberties.

 

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Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the brand new book Red State (more...)
 
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