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Hypothetical 
9th-Mar-2010 10:22 am
Gay
Hypothetical: A foreign man (let's say he's an Iranian citizen) boards a commercial airliner in Chicago, having managed to conceal explosives on his person (in an amount capable of blowing up the plane). The flight is destined for New York City. He is discovered mid-flight attempting to use the explosives and is subdued by passengers before he can detonate them. He is taken into custody by authorities and he volunteers (without any coercion) that he had planned to set off the explosives when the plane was above Manhattan. He volunteers that he is a member of an organization whose goal is to commit terrorist acts against the United States, and he adds "death to all Americans!"

A debate ensues about whether the man should be tried in criminal courts, where he would be afforded the same rights as all accused criminals (e.g. a right to silence, a right to a lawyer, the presumption of innocence) or whether he should be treated as an enemy combatant, in which case he would be dealt with as a prisoner of war and afforded the rights given under the Geneva Convention.

Poll #1535991 Terrorist or Criminal?

In the hypothetical above, should the person be treated as a criminal or as an enemy combatant?

As a criminal
21(37.5%)
As an enemy combatant
23(41.1%)
I'm not sure
12(21.4%)
Something else (what?)
0(0.0%)
Comments 
9th-Mar-2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
I don't really think I know enough to make a for sure statement, but I went with criminal.
9th-Mar-2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
That's fine, it wasn't meant to be a debate for legal scholars, I was more curious about what regular people's first impression would be. I really don't think there's one absolute correct answer, I can see merit in both positions.
9th-Mar-2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
I'm going with as a criminal since he was subdued and in custody of the authorities.

If, however, he had been hurt or killed by the passengers in the course of disarming him, I would probably not object too much.
9th-Mar-2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
This. Also I think it'd be kind of sketchy to try him as an enemy combatant when we're, y'know, not at war with Iran.
10th-Mar-2010 03:55 am (UTC)
'I think it'd be kind of sketchy to try him as an enemy combatant when we're, y'know, not at war with Iran.'

IAWTC
9th-Mar-2010 06:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah I'm no expert on these things but I think no matter how heinous the crime or horrible the person, everyone deserves those basic rights ....
9th-Mar-2010 07:35 pm (UTC)
1) I think everyone deserves the same basic rights guaranteed to American citizens by our constitution. That's what makes US the good guys, and THEM (whoever THEY are) the bad guys.

2) The only time anyone should be treated as an enemy is if they were acting for a different government - this would make their action an act of war, and then yes, they would be an enemy. Even then, they deserve the right to a fair trial, habeus corpus, etc. because we're the good guys and we're supposed to be nice like that.

(all in my opinion, I'm not really educated on the subject.
9th-Mar-2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
A very wise man (named Benjamin Franklin) once said that anyone who is willing to trade freedom for security deserves neither.

I propose that it be the duty of the American people to watch over themselves. Don't leave it to Big Brother to impersonally dispense justice! Since September 2001, Big Brother has been using every unsuccessful shoe bomber and underwear bomber as steady excuses to tighten security and strip us of what is left of our freedom. I fear the day that we have a body cavity bomber and the TSA starts performing body cavity searches: You know they'll do it on suspicious looking individuals, on everyday people, on the elderly, on children.

I'd rather give the rest of the world the message that we, as the American people, don't appreciate being fucked with. I'd vote that, in the hypothetical situation described in the original post, said terrorist not make it off the plane alive, much less to trial. I'd vote that it's the duty of the American people to make sure that happens.

Of course i'm trolling: I really don't care how anyone responds to this.
10th-Mar-2010 03:59 am (UTC)
I actually agree with you. Ben Franklin made a very good point.
9th-Mar-2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
As if the US gave a shit about the Geneva conventions.
9th-Mar-2010 08:53 pm (UTC)
Acts of terror, in general, are not meant to be accommodated by the criminal justice system. It's not a matter of intentionally denying people rights; it's a matter of square pegs and round holes. The goals of the government, society, and (probably most importantly) the Defendant are different. It's the same reason we have a civil justice system and a criminal one.

That so, it's pretty easy to screw up, so there's some practice/theory divide going on. I don't lose sleep over the idea of criminal trials.
9th-Mar-2010 09:20 pm (UTC)
Serial killers and rapists aren't any better so if they get those rights, so should this type of criminal.
(Deleted comment)
10th-Mar-2010 01:49 am (UTC)
This man is not a prisoner of war unless war is formally declared. Clearly a crime was committed (namely, n counts of attempted murder with aggravating circumstances), which is by definition a criminal act. Therefore, criminal courts apply. Since it occurred over New York airspace, the laws of the state of New York apply.

The implication of giving him anything other than a criminal trial is that visitors to the United States (such as tourists, legal immigrants, or permanent residents) have absolutely no rights if they commit a crime here. That should frighten more people than it currently is.

10th-Mar-2010 04:09 am (UTC)
The term "enemy combatant" is a bunch of bullshit.
10th-Mar-2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
If he's a member of an organized crime group with the specific goal of committing acts of terror against another country, then he has sort of put him in a position to be considered an "enemy combatant".

If it was an individual person with no affiliation with other groups, then I would consider him to be a criminal committing an act of terrorism.
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