Sen. Ron Wyden should renew the admonition of Sen. Wayne Morse"Security apparatus" was once a code word for the Soviet Union. These days you might apply it to many activities carried out by agents of the U.S. government.

When the sleuths are in charge and unchecked, there is inevitably a miscarriage of justice. As Americans, we should have the gumption to face that reality and ask hard questions of ourselves and our leaders.

Three federal courts have delivered an answer on the Bush administration's response to terror. The appeals courts decisions pointed out that the president does not have the power to detain U.S. citizens as enemy combatants and that the "enemy combatants" we have held for three years cannot be denied the right to seek court review of the legality of their detention.

As Molly Ivins noted in her column Wednesday, a court also ruled that "the statute criminalizing undefined 'material support' to designated 'terrorist organizations' is not constitutional."

In a similar vein, Army prosecutors are being absurd in the case of Capt. James Yee, the former Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay. Having no case against him on the basic charge of breaching confidential documents, the prosecutors are embarrassing Yee in court by delving into highly peripheral matters such as Yee's adultery. All of this after holding Yee in solitary confinement for almost three months.

Reviewing the Yee case, The New York Times commented that, "The specter of terrorism cannot become an excuse for the government to railroad people first, and ask questions later."

It is easy for those of us far away to ignore these incidents or take them lightly. We should not. The late Sen. Wayne Morse of Oregon admonished that our substantive rights are only as good as our procedural rights. Morse's disciple, Ron Wyden, should make that argument once more. When the rights of some Americans are diminished or trashed, America is less free.


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