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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, November 29, 2001

Secrecy and strange explanations from top

There's no question that extraordinary times call for extraordinary means. Thus, America is willing to accept some strain on its tradition of civil liberties as the war on terrorism proceeds on the domestic front.

But the sweeping powers granted to the administration and their extensive use has begun to strain the balance we must maintain between freedom and security. For instance, the Bush administration appears to be reaching in its efforts to defend the extraordinary steps it has taken in recent weeks.

First, Attorney General John Ashcroft defended the idea of secret military tribunals by declaring that terrorists "do not deserve the protections of our Constitution." That's a strange bit of logic that requires the state to determine guilt before the trial.

And now he says he won't release the names of hundreds of people secretly detained as witnesses or for other reasons because he does not want to smear their names by putting them on a "black list."

Extraordinary. Ashcroft has finally agreed to speak before Congress on this secretive operation. He had better be prepared with better answers and explanations than we have heard thus far.