Last week, my wife and I went to see the movie The Conspirator. It is a powerful movie dealing with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, as well as the legal aftermath that followed. The story focused on the prosecution--and eventual execution--of Mary Surratt. Surratt owned a boarding house that was frequented by John Wilkes Booth and others that planned the assassination of Lincoln.
After the assassination, the Government decided that it needed to try the co-conspirators in military tribunals. The commission was made up of generals from the north (as the Civil War is just winding down). Surratt and her family were southerners. Since the Constitution did not apply to the tribunals, Surratt was even forbidden to testify on her own behalf.
There is much about the assassination of Lincoln that I did not know, and since it is a movie I do not know whether the facts were portrayed accurately or not. However, I am very familiar with the story. I have seen the story time and time again. An unpopular defendant, prosecuted in a negative environment, and the Government ignoring the constitution to achieve the desired outcome.
There are many parallels between what happened in the movie and what happened in our country after 9/11. Unfortunately, it does not take a national tragedy to see those who swore to uphold the Constitution completely disregard it to accomplish a desired political outcome. The Constitution is ignored on a daily basis in courtrooms all over this country.
If you have not seen The Conspirator, I highly recommend it.