Former secretary of state criticizes secrecy surrounding detainees
By The Associated Press
CORONADO, Calif. Making secret the government's actions in response to the Sept. 11 attacks could lead America toward repression, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher told a gathering of judges.
Christopher and former FBI and CIA chief William Webster both challenged administration policies dealing with terrorism suspects. The two appeared at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' annual conference on July 16, where Christopher raised the specter of the kind of repression once common in Argentina.
"When I was in the Carter administration, I was in Argentina and I saw mothers in the streets protesting, asking for the names of those being held, those who had disappeared," Christopher said.
"We must be very careful in this country of not holding people without revealing their names. It leads to the 'disappeared.'"
The administration spokesman, Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, said detainees were being given extensive information on their rights.
Dinh said that in 1975, when he was 7 years old in Vietnam, his father was held in a re-education camp. "I cannot stress to you the feeling of pain and fear we went through," he said.
"That is why each and every person taken into custody since 9-11 is given the full panoply of rights including the right to go to the press."
American Civil Liberties Union Director Nadine Stossen said: "I hope what Mr. Dinh says is true. But it's not consistent with stories coming out from the detainees. A large number are not represented by lawyers."
Webster, asked to comment on secret military tribunals, said that he became familiar with the concept when it was considered for overseas conflicts.
"To me, this was a battlefield tribunal," he said. "I did not believe it would be a substitute for our system of justice for people being apprehended in the United States."
He said he understood that the Justice Department may have feared "another O.J. Simpson trial" if accused terrorists were tried in public.
"But I don't think we solve our problems by avoiding the process that has made us what we are," he said.
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