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Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Newsday.com - Sampling of editorials from upstate New York

What could be as potentially threatening to America's ability to keep peace and wage war as terrorists falling on their sword _ in the form of suicide bombs _ may be something as simple as paychecks.

A recent General Accounting Office report found that in a survey of Army National Guard soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, 450 of 481 soldiers had trouble getting paid or receiving certain benefits.

One soldier reportedly was asked to submit documents to get his housing allowance and was advised that everything would be worked out. When he returned home, however, he was told it was too late to get the money. Another soldier was dispatched on a four-day trip through dangerous territory to try to straighten out pay mix-ups. In another case, 34 soldiers were mistakenly told they owed the government about $48,000 each.

Serving one's country during wartime is a great enough sacrifice. Soldiers should not have the added burden of wondering if they will get a paycheck _ especially those whose families are depending on the income. The fact that many of the problems seemed to be caused by simple accounting errors is truly sad.

The government must immediately correct these problems. With trouble spots growing around the world, it will be hard enough trying to entice people to serve their country. But what will make it harder still is the belief that when they do sign up, they may have to fight for America and fight for America to pay them.


The Watertown Daily Times on funding Lady Liberty:

Nov. 28

For two years now, Americans have been locked out of one of the best known monuments to their freedom, the Statue of Liberty. It was closed in the panicky aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. Although other sites have slowly reopened as the country returns to normalcy, the 117-year-old statue remains closed until security can be tightened.

A number of steps have been taken to improve security around the statue and on Liberty Island, but visitors have been barred from entering the statue which houses a museum and observation areas. The government wants to add new exits at the statue monument and upgrade fire safety and emergency notification systems at an estimated cost of $5 million.

The National Park Service has taken measures to improve security and screen visitors outside the statue and to Ellis Island, but funds are not forthcoming for the additional repairs.

Absent federal funds, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said American Express has pledged $3 million and commissioned a television documentary on the statue for broadcast in January, copies of which will be sold for $100 each.

Folgers Coffee has also pledged $1 million. Even when it is reopened, visitors will be limited to the lower of two observation decks. They will be able to take an elevator or climb the 192 steps to an observation deck in the pedestal area; but the statue's crown, which is 22 stories high, and its torch will remain off limits.

"Many of America's and New York's sons and daughters are around the world fighting for the freedoms that the Statue of Liberty stands for," Mayor Bloomberg said. "They're continuing a war that started only a few blocks from here. The reopening of the Statue of Liberty is another way to show that we are going to win the war and that New York will always remain the world's second home."

Lady Liberty, a gift from France in 1886, has welcomed millions of immigrants to America's shores. The inscription at the base of the 151-foot-high statue expresses the hope held out to newcomers seeking opportunity for a better life in the United States.

The city should not have to depend on private donors to make the necessary improvements to the monument. The amount required is not significant in the overall federal budget.

Fear and caution prompted the closing of many places and buildings after Sept. 11. Some have closed permanently. But others have reopened after security measures were implemented. With federal assistance, the same should be done with the Statue of Liberty as soon as possible.


The Times Union of Albany on the USA Patriot Act:

Here come two more critics of a Bush administration anti-terrorism policy that presents such a threat to civil liberties. Two very unlikely critics, that is, who can't be so readily ignored.

They're Viet Dinh, who helped draft the USA Patriot Act while he worked for Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Michael Chertoff, who also served as a top Justice Department official. Both have added their very credible voices to the long list of civil libertarians and other legal observers who are concerned about the implications of the unconstitutional treatment accorded to Jose Padilla, an American citizen arrested in Chicago last year for allegedly planning to make a radiological bomb.

Mr. Padilla has spent the past 18 months locked up in a military brig without access to a lawyer. Not even Mr. Dinh, who has defended other post-Sept. 11 Bush administration policies on civil liberties grounds, can see the slightest hint of justice there. What alarms him, as he's explained in a series of speeches and a recent Los Angeles Times interview, is that the indefinite detainment of Mr. Padilla allows him no chance to respond to the charges against him. The Bush administration seems to think it has no legal duty to do so, Mr. Dinh complains.

Even those designated as "enemy combatants," as Mr. Padilla has been, have rights. An American citizen arrested on American soil, even on charges of conspiring with the al-Qaida terrorist network to trigger an explosives-and-radioactive attack, has the right to review the evidence against him. So, in fact, do all Americans.

"The President is owed significant deference as to when and how and what kind of process the person designated an enemy combatant is entitled to," Mr. Dinh told the Los Angeles Times. "But I do not think the Supreme Court would defer to the President when there is nothing to defer to. There must be an actual process or discernible set of procedures to determine how they will be treated."

Mr. Chertoff, who previously served as the head of the Justice Department's criminal division and now is a federal appeals judge, also says the treatment of accused combatants like Mr. Padilla must be re-examined. "We need to debate a long-term and sustainable architecture for the process of determining when, why and for how long someone may be detained as an enemy combatant, and what judicial review should be available," he said in a recent speech at the University of North Carolina Law School. These are not men of the political left, remember. They're former colleagues of Mr. Ashcroft himself.

How might the attorney general respond to arguments that he's discarding the principle of habeas corpus? What might President Bush say? Or all the senators who voted to confirm Mr. Ashcroft as attorney general, or all those in Congress who support the Patriot Act? As it happens, the word comes from an official Justice Department spokesman that the case of Mr. Padilla is off-limits as long as it's pending in court.

Sorry, not good enough. Not when what's actually pending in court is the very legality of detaining criminal suspects under the conditions Mr. Padilla finds himself incarcerated. Let's hear the government's argument for indefinite detention without legal representation. Oh, and pardon us if we interpret the lack of an argument as further evidence that there is no plausible argument.

Newsday.com - Sampling of editorials from upstate New York

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