I don’t intend to write much about political issues, since it isn’t the purpose of this blog. However, when something arises that affects a lot of us in the high tech industry, then I’ll make an exception. The case in point today is the proposed legislation in the US Senate that attempts to codify the administration’s position on detaining terrorism suspects, interrogating them etc. I’m no lawyer, so I have to rely upon the expertise of others in understanding what the legislation is all about. In this case, I’m relying upon the testimony of Senator Patrick Leahy.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with embedded systems. Well, have a read of this excerpt from Senator Leahy (The full text appears here). I’ll then make my point.
Today we are belatedly addressing the single most consequential provision of this much-discussed bill, a provision that can be found buried on page 81 of the proposed bill. This provision would perpetuate the indefinite detention of hundreds of individuals against whom the government has brought no charges and presented no evidence, without any recourse to justice whatsoever. That is un-American, and it is contrary to American interests.
Going forward, the bill departs even more radically from our most fundamental values. It would permit the president to detain indefinitely—even for life—any alien, whether in the United States or abroad, whether a foreign resident or a lawful permanent resident, without any meaningful opportunity for the alien to challenge his detention. The administration would not even need to assert, much less prove, that the alien was an enemy combatant; it would suffice that the alien was “awaiting [a] determination” on that issue. In other words, the bill would tell the millions of legal immigrants living in America, participating in American families, working for American businesses, and paying American taxes, that our government may at any minute pick them up and detain them indefinitely without charge, and without any access to the courts or even to military tribunals, unless and until the government determines that they are not enemy combatants. [Emphasis mine]
I’m a legal resident alien in the USA. Huge numbers of the people I know in the embedded systems field are also non-citizens of one form or another. I find this very disturbing and I suspect they will to. Now imagine if you were a talented person from overseas who was considering moving to the USA in search of a better life. Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect that a lot of those folks would eschew the USA and opt for other pastures. If that happens, then the life blood of the high tech industry in general (and embedded systems in particular) will dry up.
Am I being overly dramatic here? Quite possibly. However, if you were, for instance, a muslim contemplating a move to the USA, what would you do if this indeed becomes the law of the land?