Friday, April 27, 2007

Senators Vow To Restore Habeas Corpus

Here's a dash of good news from Susan Cornwell of Reuters:
Influential U.S. senators vowed on Thursday to restore to foreign terrorism suspects the right to challenge their imprisonment, saying Congress made an historic blunder by stripping them of that right last year.

Hundreds of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban members held at a U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be affected.
All the other people held in U.S. military prisons could be affected, too.
The United States has drawn international criticism over its continued detention of terrorism suspects in Guantanamo, with human rights groups demanding the prison be closed and detainees charged with crimes or released.
It's the least one can ask of a civilized country, is it not? Or do we no longer even aspire to that status?
Last year's Congress, with a Republican majority, passed a law setting specific rules for U.S. military tribunals. It included a ban on non-citizens labeled "enemy combatants" from using "habeas corpus" petitions to challenge the legality of their detention in court, asserting that military panels at Guantanamo were a substitute for court review.
They are not, of course. Not even close.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy warned that the rights of some 12 million legal aliens in the United States -- as well as any foreigners visiting the country -- had also been infringed by the new law.
Regular readers of this page may remember that the issue of illegal detention of legal aliens became a personal one last fall, when the cousin of a friend was detained without cause, without charge, and -- for far too long -- without even a hearing.

It's no stretch to imagine that the same thing could happen to any of twelve million legal residents -- indeed it has happened to many of them. Fortunately, my friend's cousin was released after "only" three weeks. But many others who were been detained for the same nonexistent reasons are still in prison. So a restoration of habeas corpus would help them as well.

It would also help the approximately 300 million American citizens whose rights have also been infringed -- by the new law combined with the president's having claimed the right to strip the citizenship (and thus the habeas corpus rights) of anyone he (or any subordinate he might deputize) may deem an "enemy combatant".
"This new law means that any of these people can be detained forever ... without any ability to challenge their detention in federal court, or anywhere else, simply on the government's say-so that they are awaiting determination as to whether they are enemy combatants," the Vermont Democrat said.

"This is wrong. It is unconstitutional. It is un-American," Leahy said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which would share jurisdiction on changing the law.
You can't argue about any of this unless you have a license to lie. But there are an awful lot of licensed liars to be found, especially at the five-cornered building.
A Defense Department lawyer and some committee Republicans said the law should be allowed to work and be examined by U.S. courts before Congress acts again.
It's the same old song with a different word in it. Give the war a chance! Give the surge a chance! Give the gulag a chance! Give us just one more chance to lie to you!

Are you ready for another one? Here it comes:
"Detention of enemy combatants in wartime is not criminal punishment and therefore does not require that the individual be charged or tried in a court of law," said Daniel Dell'Orto, principal deputy general counsel at the Pentagon.
Unfortunately for Mr. Dell'Orto, there's much more to the story. This is not exclusively about the detention of America's enemies. This is also about the detention of people who are anything but enemy combatants. Some of them are guilty of nothing but trying to escape from the bombing of their former homelands, and were sold into captivity. But the Pentagon-licensed lawyers don't want you to know about that. Or about anything else that's really going on in the world. And neither does the administration. Fortunately, they don't yet have full control over everything.
Leahy, along with Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, has introduced legislation to restore habeas corpus right to detainees.
With decades of duplicity to atone for, Arlen "Magic Bullet" Specter seems to have taken a step in the right direction. On the other hand, this could simply be more duplicity on his part. After all, he is a past master.

Let us recall that during the debate on the law he now says he wants to change,
Arlen Specter said that the bill sends us back 900 years because it denies habeas corpus rights and allows the President to detain people indefinitely. He also said the bill violates core Constitutional protections. Then he voted for it.
Personally, I don't trust Arlen Specter any farther than I can throw him -- and I never will. But one can always hope. And if Pat Leahy still has hope, how can any of the rest of us give up?

The Reuters report continues:
With the help of Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, "I hope we can fix this serious and corrosive problem by this summer," Leahy said.

Levin, a Michigan Democrat, agreed "we have an obligation to act now to establish a process that we can defend."
It's clear that the current setup is indefensible. And the challenge to it is way overdue.

So here's a big "HOORAY" for Senators Leahy and Levin (and a small one for Arlen Specter), and best of luck to them on this.

The gulag is one of the centerpieces of the tyranny this administration is trying to establish -- perhaps the single most important and most intimidating manifestation of their evil intentions. So this will not be an easy row to hoe. But it may be the most important one -- for now.