ANOTHER INTERNET RUMOR? John Hawkins investigates Jonathan Turley’s claim (via a Los Angeles Times op-ed) that Ashcroft and the Justice Department were planning prison camps and finds it wanting.

I think Hawkins is right to call this hype. I looked at the Wall Street Journal article that Turley claims (via email) was the basis for his oped and it’s really a bit of a stretch to view it as indicating that plans for massive incarceration are underway. The article appeared on August 8, and is entitled: “White House Seeks to Expand Indefinite Detentions in Military Brigs, Even for U.S. Citizens.” Here’s the key section:

The White House is considering creating a high-level committee to decide which prisoners should be denied access to federal courts. The Goose Creek, S.C., facility that houses Mr. Padilla — mostly empty since it was designated in January to hold foreigners captured in the U.S. and facing military tribunals — now has a special wing that could be used to jail about 20 U.S. citizens if the government were to deem them enemy combatants, a senior administration official said.

A special wing holding 20 people isn’t exactly Manzanar, yet in Turley’s oped it becomes a “proposed camp plan” (there’s nothing in the Wall Street Journal story about any prison “camps,” but the term appears repeatedly in Turley’s piece). There’s a minor disclaimer that Ashcroft isn’t planning anything on the scale of the Japanese-American internments of World War Two, but Turley never makes clear that we’re talking about fewer than two dozen individuals. Perhaps Turley has more information than the Journal article contains, but if so he hasn’t mentioned it.

I’m opposed to the imprisonment of American citizens without trial. Unlike the imprisonment of foreign citizens, it is almost certain to have a deeply corrupting effect on American politics. But Turley’s hype does a disservice.

As I mentioned in my original post on Turley’s piece, bogus rumors of government prison camps have been around for decades. If this stuff is hyped when it’s not true, what will people say if it ever becomes true? I’ll tell you what they’ll say: “There goes Turley, crying wolf again.”