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July 23, 1982 - Image 6

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Michigan Daily, 1982-07-23

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The Michigan Daily

Page 6

Friday, July 23, 1982

. _ _. ,

The Michigan Daily
Vol. XCII, No. 46-S
Ninety-two Years of Editorial Freedom
Edited and managed by students

Crackdown on draft
evaders likely to fail

4

at the University of Michigan By Seth Rosenfeld
With the first two indictments
for refusal to register handed
Au edown this month, the drama of
draft resistance once again is un-
folding on American campuses,
P RESIDENT REAGAN'S recent decision to in the courts and on the streets.
scuttle talks with the Soviets on a Resisters already are planning
comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. offers national protests as the
further proof that he is not willing to negotiate them.
seriously with the Russians on reducing the They and their attorneys plan to
threat of nuclear war. challenge the prosecutions - and
Every president since Eisenhower has endor- registration itself - on moral,
sed such a treaty in hopes of banning all testing constitutional and political;
of nuclear devices. Currently, there is a partial war-wary public opinion, as
test ban on nuclear testing above ground, in the evidenced in the nuclear freeze
sea, and in space. That treaty has been ineffec- campaign, will back them.
tive in capping testing, however, as more tests YET DESPITE government ef-
have taken place underground since the treaty forts to tighten Selective Service
System (SSS) regulations, it ap-
was signed in 1963 than all tests before that time pears increasingly likely that
combined. government errors in the
Administration officials insist that the treaty registration process will give
would not be verifiable. Even if that assertion resisters some of their best
were true, it provides no reason not to continue weapons, much as they did
during the Vietnam War era.
negotiating in the hope of finding a suitable The first court battle over the
method for monitoring such an agreement. new registration will become
And, in fact, political leaders in both parties focal points in the growing con-
and members of the scientific community troversy and are bound to affect
disagree with that claim. Many scientists have the future.a
asserted that nuclear tests can be detected on a The SSS director, Maj. Gen.
seismograph and are discernible from an ear- Thomas Turnage, said early in
thquake. July that he expects the first
The whole argument for a comprehensive prosecutions to spur an estimated
tes whanisthauentedrweao leaders 500,000 to one million other
test ban is that untested weapons leave e resisters to register. But if non-
unsure of the missiles' efficacy, and therefore registrants succeed early on
less likely to use them. Thus such a treaty against the government in court,
would help destroy incentives for a nuclear first or use their prosecutions to put
strike, adding to the security of both Americans the very legality of registration
stResdigans.on trial, it may become
and Russians. politically difficult for the gover-
If President Reagan is as eager to reduce the nment to proceed any further.
nuclear threat as he publicly states, he should SELECTIVE Service represen-
keep all avenues leading to that end open. His tatives say that they now have
closure of the total test ban talks leaves serious forwarded the names of 160 non-
doubts about his slncertys registrants to the Justice Depar-
tment for prosecution. Young
men who "knowingly and
jwillfully fail, evade and refuse"
to register face penalties of a
$10,000 fine, five years in jail, or
both.
In the meantime, draft attor-
neys are building cases based on
apparent procedural
irregularities which they believe
not only will defeat individual
prosecutions, but also invalidate
r - the entire registration program:
Selective Service opponents
claim that the government failed
,, r E oto properly publish the
registration regulations in the
Federal Register. Chris Hodge
of the Military Law Task Force in
Washington, D.C., says that the
$ government did not provide a 30-
day period for public comment
required by law. Moreover, adds
ON NUrW NAS FALLGN ACROS S TSRSN 505 RO _.. Bill Smith, chairman of the Selec-

AP Photo
Anti-draft demonstrations, such as this one in March 1980, may
become more common as the government begins to crack down on
those who failed to register for the draft.

tive Service Law Panel in Los
Angeles, the government finally
published the regulations in the
wrong part of the Federal
Register and withheld what
public comment it did receive.
"If the regulations governing
registration are void, then there
can be no convictions for failure
to register," says Hodge.
" It is also charged that the
government failed to give
adequate notice to some men of
their duty to register. According
to officials, SSS promised to bring
important information before the
public "through news releases,
pamphlets, educational
materials for distribution in high
schools and other documents."
But Smith calls this policy "hit or
miss" and points out that by the
government's own estimate over
half a million men have not
registered. "The question may
well be asked: How many of
these young men were simply
unaware of their duty?" he
remarks. Smith says the courts
recently have held that in order
to convict, government
prosecutors must prove that non-
registrants actually received
specific notice of their duty.
" In addition, say draft attor-
neys, the current registration
program is invalid because it is
not being followed by physical
examination, classification, in-
duction and other steps as
required by the Military Selec-
tive Service Act. Smith claims
this is a violation of the act and
may be an "absolute defense"
agamst prosecution.

If the charge that the governm-
ent failed to properly publish
registration regulations is
upheld, "SSS would be in a real
bind," says Smith. "It might
require a new presidential
proclamation (to start
registration over correctly), and
Reagan might be reluctant to do
it."
DURING THE Vietnam era,
such technical defenses, often
based on government errors,
were the most successful means
of fighting draft prosecution. The
courts rejected most political and
moral attacks on the draft,
holding that conscription was
constitutional.
-Nevertheless, many non-
registrants say that if they are
prosecuted, they still will
challenge registration on the
basis of their political and moral
beliefs, as well as on technical
grounds. They contend that
American society has changed
since Vietnam and that juries
now may be more receptive to
such arguments.
"The peace movement back in
the '60s was a youth-oriented
movement ... Now it's more in
the mainstream of American
life," says draft attorney Mike
Somers of San Rafael, Calif. ':It
may boil down to the jury
opinion, to the beliefs of
American people. I think it may
be difficult in some areas to get
12 people to convict."
Rosenfeld wrote this article
for the Pacific News Service.

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