Posted by: Kevin | May 9, 2007

Restore Habeas Corpus Now!

One of the reasons I was relieved to see Democrats take control of Congress in 2006 was the prospect of restoring habeas corpus.  For those unfamiliar, here is what wikipedia has to say about habeas corpus.

Known as the “Great Writ,” a writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum is a court order addressed to a prison official (or other custodian) ordering that a prisoner be brought before the court so that the court can determine whether that person is serving a lawful sentence or should be released from custody. The prisoner, or some other person on his behalf (for example, where the prisoner is being held incommunicado), may petition the court or an individual judge for a writ of habeas corpus.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006compromises habeas corpus because it vests in the presidency the power to indefinitely detain people while stripping detainees of any opportunity to contest the government’s charges.

(e)(1) No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination. (emphasis mine)

This in of itself is bad.  Courts are denied jurisdiction and the government isn’t compelled to bring charges.  What is worse is that other provisions of the bill do not include the distinction that this bill applies only to aliens.  Meaning that it could be interpreted to apply to US citizens (below from section 948a)

Sec. 948a. Definitions

    `In this chapter:
      `(1) UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT- (A) The term `unlawful enemy combatant’ means–
        `(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or
        `(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.

This bill needs to die, and quickly.  According to Glenn Greenwald, House Democrats are currently discussing this very thing.  However, they’re letting political concerns hold up the process.  They need to cut the bullshit and get a move on.

“I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
Thomas Jefferson

Hat Tip to The Impolitic


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