One of the problems I have making common cause with many of the civil rights critics of the Bush administration is that they tend to hurt legitimate civil rights by exaggerating their claims into the ridiculous.
A good example is detentions at Gitmo. I believe strongly that the Bush administration's invented concept of unlimited-length detentions without trial or judicial review is obscene and needed to be halted. But critics of Bush quickly shifted the focus to "torture" at Gitmo, a charge that in light of the facts appears ridiculous to most rational people, including me. As a result, the administration's desire to hold people indefinitely without due process has been aided by Bush's critics, who have shifted the focus to a subject that is much more easily defended on the facts.
Interestingly, as I watch the Beeb this morning, Britain is having a similar debate. Its hard to figure the whole thing out from the TV coverage and sound bites, but apparently Britain has the ability to detain suspected terrorists for 90 days, and wants the power to extend this.
Many people have told me that I am an insanely naive Pollyanna for not accepting the need for indefinite detention without trial of suspected terrorists. I have explained in the past that we don't have the right to do this with our own citizens, but we also don't have the right to do this with any other human being (the short explanation: The individual rights we hold dear are our rights as human beings, NOT as citizens. They flow from our very existence, not from our government and not from the fact of our citizenship. In some ways, the government probably has less right to abuse non-citizens, not more).
Here is a test: If the government had always had this power, ie to detain indefinitely people it thought somehow "dangerous" to "someone" (with the government getting to define both these terms), how abused would it have been in the past. My answer is "very much". Who would J. Edgar Hoover have detained? Would Martin Luther King have spent his life in jail, much like Nelson Mandela?
By the way, I have no idea what Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld means for all this, since I haven't read it and pundits seem to disagree on what it means (unfortunately, this may be something we live with a while, a feature of the new muddled "Justice Kennedy compromise" we seem to have to live with on a number of decisions). If anyone thinks they have seen a definitive analysis, please link it in the comments.