None Dare Call It Chutzpah: Alan Dershowitz Now Favors Torture

Most Americans don`t know and probably don`t want to
hear about it, but the fact is that somewhere between
the box cutters of Sept. 11 and the
anthrax-in-the-envelopes of the last several weeks,
civil liberties are slowly beginning to vanish. 

Columnist Nat Hentoff, a lifelong civil libertarian,
may exaggerate when he writes, as he does in a

recent column
, that the "new antiterrorism law,
signed by the president, is the worst attack on the Bill
of Rights since World War I," but what`s even more
worrisome is that virtually no one except Mr. Hentoff
seems to give a hoot. 

Not only are most opinion makers silent about or
actually supportive of the contraction of freedom but
some whom you`d expect to be moaning about it are
demanding that the government go further. I

recently noted

in the Wall Street Journal by
historian Jay Winik, who chirped happily over the
trampling of civil liberties during various
"emergencies" in the American past and gloated over the
prospect of yet further trampling in the near future.
Mr. Winik, however, is not alone. 

The Washington Post

 last month ["Silence of 4 Terror Probe
Suspects Poses Dilemma", Oct. 21, 2001] that the FBI and
Justice Department are getting pretty fed up with the
silence of several terrorist suspects they`ve been
holding for some weeks.  The louts just aren`t squealing
on their comrades, despite all the toys and candy canes
the FBI has dangled—"lighter sentences, money, jobs,
and a new identity and life in the United States for
them and their family members." Amazingly, some people
really don`t want to be Americans. 

And so, reports the Post, some in the federal
law enforcement leviathan "are beginning to say that
traditional civil liberties may have to be cast aside if
they are to extract information about the Sept. 11
attacks and terrorist plans." The article quotes one FBI
agent as saying "But it could get to that spot where we
could go to pressure … where we won`t have a choice,
and we are probably getting there." In other words, if
you don`t say what we want you to say, we have ways to
make you talk. 

The Post is pretty specific about what those
ways might be.  "Among the alternative strategies under
discussion are using drugs or pressure tactics, such as
those employed occasionally by Israeli interrogators, to
extract information. Another idea is extraditing the
suspects to allied countries where security services
sometimes employ threats to family members or resort to
torture." Indeed.  If Americans

don`t have the stomach for tyranny,
we have plenty

who do. But it`s really not the FBI we need
to worry about. It`s Harvard professors. 

Last week in St. Louis who should pop up to propose
the outright legalization of torture but Harvard law
professor and veteran left-winger Alan Dershowitz.
Speaking at a book fair at the Jewish Community Center
on his new book about the Supreme Court`s ruling on last
year`s presidential election, Mr. Dershowitz managed to
sound less like

Louis Brandeis

Heinrich Himmler

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

on Nov. 5, "Even torture may not be off the
table as an information-gathering tool, Dershowitz said.
But there must be a national debate about the

in which torture is permissible and
who should have the power to decide when to use it." We
wouldn`t want to just leap to extremes without thinking
it through, would we? 

Mr. Dershowitz as lawyer, teacher, and author has
made a long and profitable career out of defending the
indefensible, inventing "rights" that no one ever
suspected existed,

denouncing hate groups

against oppression,

and suppression and supporting just about
every species of Do-Good known to the mind of
Bolshevism. Now at last we discover just how "liberal"
this fraud really is. 

It would be fascinating to learn who exactly Mr.
Dershowitz has in mind as his first candidate for the
torture chamber and how he`d like to manage it. We can
look forward to the "national debate" as to whether we
should merely rely on cattle prods and rubber truncheons
or go so far as to set up a rack and iron maiden in the
basement of every police station. 

"Necessity, the tyrant`s plea,"

poet John Milton. Every tyrant begins his
career by claiming that

infringements of liberty
are "necessary" for
something or other—survival, prosperity, security, even
freedom itself. Then, the people who let the tyrant get
away with it are always amazed when they find themselves
the next guests in his torture chamber. 

Having let phonies like Alan Dershowitz wreck the
Constitution in the courts, why should we be surprised
when they preach getting rid of it altogether, and why
should we expect Americans who have already forgotten

government means to care whether he
and his allies succeed? 


November 08,