When Bush announced plans for detention without trial, he reassured Americans that this would apply only to foreigners. This does not reduce the injustice--if you were arrested and imprisoned arbitrarily in a foreign country, would the fact that it is a foreign country make it any better? But it did give Americans the idea that their own government still respected their rights.

Now the US government threatens a US citizen faces arbitrary imprisonment without trial. Evidently nobody is safe from Bush and Ashcroft.

Ashcroft says he was planning to spread radioactive contamination with a "dirty bomb"; other sources say there was no bomb and that the accusation cannot be believed. Ashcroft wants us to take his word for it. If there is never a trial, he will never have to prove it.

You, my reader, may not be a supporter of Al Qa'ida. Perhaps you are quite sure that you are not involved with making bombs. You can never be sure that Ashcroft won't arrest you and accuse you anyway. Anyone can make a mistake; he might also lie. Either way, if you never have a trial, you will have no chance to clear your name.

When Bush I was president, a bomb exploded in the car of activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cheney. The FBI accused them of building the bomb themselves. They accused the FBI of opportunistically framing them.

Bari and Cheney had the right to a trial, and the FBI had no evidence for its accusation, so they did not have to spend their lives in prison. Instead they sued the FBI and the Oakland Police Department. The jury told the FBI and police to pay them 4.4 million dollars. (Judi Bari did not live to see the outcome.)

If Ashcroft gets away with imprisoning Americans without a trial, the government will have the powers of an autocrat. If the FBI ever wants to accuse you, it won't need to show any evidence. You'll go straight to prison as a "terrorist", and you'll never have a chance to clear your name.