Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Tom Zirpoli: Country built upon upholding rights

Last week was an emotional one for the people of Boston and for all Americans. Once again, a couple of individuals decided that killing innocent people was an appropriate way to express their dissatisfaction with their condition in life.

But the people of Boston and, I think, all Americans will take the advice of President Barack Obama and not allow this violence to change who we are. The Boston Marathon will go on as scheduled next year, and I predict that it will include a record number of runners.

Interestingly, while all of this was going on, the Constitution Project released its 577-page report documenting how our government responded to the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. The Constitution Project is a bipartisan, 11-member task force consisting of civilian and military leaders, and it is co-chaired by a Democrat and Republican.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, the group found "indisputable evidence" that the United States engaged in systematic and extensive torture after 9/11, and that officials from the White House to military and CIA guards in detention centers around the world allowed and contributed to the spread of torture. The study also found that any information gleaned from torture "yielded little valuable intelligence."

Coincidentally, this month is the 30th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's signing of the United Nation's Convention Against Torture.

Someone recently said that while a terrorist attack may cause short-term harm to a nation, how a nation responds to the attack will determine the long-term level of harm. The Constitution Project documents in great detail how our government responded to the fear of terrorists after 9/11. According to the report, we put aside our role described by Reagan as the shining city on a hill, the beacon of democracy and the human rights champion of the world.

In a discussion on how captured Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a U.S. citizen, should be treated within our legal system, some have suggested that his rights under our Constitution be ignored. Interestingly, many of these same individuals were on television just days earlier defending the constitutional rights of any and all U.S. citizens, including criminals, to purchase a gun without being subjected to a background check.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is a former military lawyer and should have known better than to suggest that the President of the United States ignore Tsarnaev's constitutional rights. Just days earlier, Graham was slamming the president for not honoring the constitutional rights of people to buy guns without a background check.

Graham said that he wants to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. Does he not see the terror of 80 Americans killed each day by guns? Do these citizens, all victims, deserve less protection?

Zeke Johnson, the director of Amnesty International USA's Security with Human Rights Campaign, stated that, "Fear mongering is always the wrong response to tragedy. The right thing to do is fulfill the rights of victims and bring those responsible to justice through a fair trial."

Indeed, isn't this the American way? Isn't this the justice system we have been trying to build in Afghanistan and Iraq? Isn't this the system we have been encouraging other places around the world - think Egypt - to emulate?

Tsarnaev will likely be found guilty of murder and numerous other crimes. He is likely to spend the rest of his life in jail. A fair and transparent trial will show the world that justice can be served within a democratic society that honors both the individual and collective rights of its citizens.

In the post-Boston Marathon Constitution Report, let it read that America stood for due process, that our mistakes after 9/11 were an aberration and that we are still the world's model of liberty and justice for all.

Time will tell. I'm hopeful.