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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Lessons not learned....

The news of the past couple of days about the Bush Administration's post-9/11 secret suspension of the need for warrants to spy on the communications of Americans raises issues about the conduct of the war on terror that point us back in the direction of LESSONS NOT LEARNED by the British in their Northern Ireland experience.

Several months ago I mentioned the publication of friend Justin O'Brien's Killing Finucane, and I do so once again because the insights he offer into that case demonstrate the dangers of having the state and its agents go too far in the "defence of the realm" (which is the subtitle of O'Brien's book).

But as significant is O'Brien's articulation of the dilemma facing those who seek justice for the damage done under a "defense of the realm" regime. The story of the Finucane family's effort to uncover who "pulled the strings"as well as the trigger in the murder of Pat Finucane is an excellent case study that should be read as a warning to those who might abuse power as well as a lesson for those who will find the search for justice frustrated by all sorts of constraints.

The Finaucane family search for justice is merely the tip of the Northern Ireland iceberg, as evidenced by this weeks other news from Northern Ireland that a major Sinn Fein operative Denis Donaldson has admitted being an agent for the British government for at least two decades -- a fact that reinforces the points raised by O'Brien and the threats to legitimacy that writers like Walzer and Ignatieff have raised in the respective analyses.

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