… amid setbacks for others

Consider the case of a man named Iyman Faris, an American citizen. On or about March 1 of this year, the FBI arrested Faris in Columbus, Ohio. Nobody was notified of his arrest. He was held in secret for six weeks. In mid-April, again in secrecy, Faris pled guilty to plotting a terrorist act against the Brooklyn Bridge. Then, also in secrecy, he was sentenced to prison.

Perhaps he’s guilty and really did intend to blow up that bridge. Then again, perhaps he’s an innocent guy caught up in the fearfulness of the times. The point is that we don’t know. From the moment he was arrested until he was convicted and sent to prison three months later, he was kept entirely out of the public eye. The government is asking us to take its word for it that he’s guilty and that nothing happened to him during detention to compel a confession.

This Fourth of July, we have to ask ourselves: Is this what America is about? Kidnapping a citizen and then trying and sentencing him in secret? Sounds more like the former Soviet Union than the United States. And it’s just the worst of many examples of the government’s attack on fundamental rights under the terms of the grossly misnamed USA Patriot Act.

The last time the U.S. government secretly arrested and imprisoned people was during World War II, when it sent thousands of people of Japanese heritage to isolated internment camps. We now realize that was terribly wrong. When will we see that it’s happening again?

Yes, there are terrorists out there who want to cause us harm. But are we so fearful that we are willing to give up our most basic and precious rights, chief among them the right to a fair and open trial? And why aren’t more of us angry about this degradation of American values and speaking out against it? It’s something to consider as we celebrate our freedoms this Independence Day.