Restoring the Constitution
I was remiss on Constitution Day to mention Sen. Dodd and Sen. Leahy's efforts to restore habeas corpus, a major undertaking they're attempting as we speak. The website Restore Habeas has a petition you can sign to become a "citizen co-sponsor" of this important legislation. Here's Dodd talking about it:
And here's part of Leahy's statement:
Last year, Congress committed an historic mistake by suspending the Great Writ of habeas corpus — not just for those confined at Guantanamo Bay but for millions of legal residents in the United States. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing in May on this bill illustrated the broad agreement among representatives from diverse political beliefs and backgrounds that the mistake committed in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 must be corrected. The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, S.186, the bill on which this amendment is based, has 30 cosponsors. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported it on a bipartisan basis. I hope Senators will review the Committee report on this measure.
Habeas corpus was recklessly undermined in last year’s Military Commissions Act. Like the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the elimination of habeas rights was an action driven by fear, and it was a stain on America’s reputation in the world. This is a time of testing. Future generations will look back to examine the choices we made during a time when security was too often invoked as a watchword to convince us to slacken our defense of liberty and the rule of law.
The Great Writ of habeas corpus is the legal process that guarantees an opportunity to go to court and challenge the abuse of power by the Government. The Military Commissions Act rolled back these protections by eliminating that right, permanently, for any non-citizen labeled an enemy combatant. In fact, a detainee does not have to be found to be an enemy combatant; it is enough for the Government to say someone is “awaiting” determination of that status.
The sweep of this habeas provision goes far beyond the few hundred detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, and it includes an estimated 12 million lawful permanent residents in the United States today. These are people who work and pay taxes, people who abide by our laws and should be entitled to fair treatment. Under this law, any of these people can be detained, forever, without any ability to challenge their detention in court.
This is wrong. It is unconstitutional. It is un-American.
The federal judge that has been picked to be Attorney General has a long record of deferring to the executive branch on the War on Terror, from allowing them to call any citizen an enemy combatant and treat them under separate rules as they see fit, to allowing them to use military commissions over federal courts, to favoring administrative detention, which is allowing the enemy combatant to be detained without trial. He made one decent call on granting Jose Padilla a lawyer and people are talking like he's William Kunstler. He's not, and the fact that he's now seen as a moderate leads to the kind of mentality that the Congress has when they allow the Military Commissions Act to be passed in the first place. I've always said that it's going to be much harder to get this thing repealed than it will be to get it passed, and it's certainly not going to happen in the Bush era, though I support the effort wholeheartedly. The real destructiveness of the Bush Administration is how they've moved the goalposts on all of this stuff, from torture to illegal detentions to denying habeas rights to domestic spying. It's going to take the concerted efforts of millions of patriots to get things right.