September 6, 2004

John G. == Joseph K.?

I just saw the latest news on John Gilmore's case concerning the requirement to present ID before boarding a commercial aircraft.

There are lots of opinions on both sides of the main issue.  But I'm not going to try here to elaborate, much less address, those opinions.

Rather, what I am writing about here is the assertion by the government that they can make their arguments in secret, not even telling Gilmore what those arguments are.

That assertion screams of Kafka.  Is John Gilmore a modern day Joseph K who is never to learn why his rights are being removed, much less to have a real means to make a challenge?

I will soon be writing some thoughts engendered by a book I just read - Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here  When I read of actions and assertions by the present so-called "Justice" Department - assertions such are being made here in the Gilmore case, redaction of case citations in decisions, as well as assertions recently made (but fortunately rejected by the courts) of executive power to hold prisoners incommunicado for indefinite periods, I wonder whether the book could be re-issued under the title It Is Happening Here?

We as citizens deserve more from our government than "trust us".  Citizens can not exercise their rights as citizens without information.  A democracy can not survive in secrecy.  A government that hides behind secrecy is a government that has repudiated the principles upon which this country was founded.

We may not all agree with John Gilmore's claim that he can board a commercial airliner without showing ID.  But I believe that we all can agree that secret trials are wrong and are permissible only in extreme cases after a clear, complete, and compelling public showing by the government that a secret proceeding is necessary in a specific case and that there is no less burdensome alternative.

Posted by karl at September 6, 2004 2:39 AM