Habeas Corpus. Produce the body.
Produce the dead body of democracy.
Habeas Corpus is a corner stone of a just judicial system. It's a cornerstone of democracy.
The ruling junta in the US has made it disappear.
If you're not up to speed on this, the Military Commissions Act is now law. Contrary to what (for example) the Globe And Mail says, this is not a "tough on terror" bill. This is a suspension of the democratic process, and a sea change in American law.
Here's the text of the law itself, and some important portions explained.
Human Rights Watch has a thorough analysis written in Q&A form.
From the Washington Post:
Moving quickly to implement the bill signed by President Bush this week that authorizes military trials of enemy combatants, the administration has formally notified the U.S. District Court here that it no longer has jurisdiction to consider hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.Note that this bill had support from both [sic] parties.
In a notice dated Wednesday, the Justice Department listed 196 pending habeas cases, some of which cover groups of detainees. The new Military Commissions Act (MCA), it said, provides that "no court, justice, or judge" can consider those petitions or other actions related to treatment or imprisonment filed by anyone designated as an enemy combatant, now or in the future.
Beyond those already imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, the law applies to all non-U.S. citizens, including permanent U.S. residents.
The new law already has been challenged as unconstitutional by lawyers representing the petitioners. The issue of detainee rights is likely to reach the Supreme Court for a third time.
Habeas corpus, a Latin term meaning "you have the body," is one of the oldest principles of English and American law. It requires the government to show a legal basis for holding a prisoner. A series of unresolved federal court cases brought against the administration over the last several years by lawyers representing the detainees had left the question in limbo.
Two years ago, in Rasul v. Bush, which gave Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their detention before a U.S. court, and in this year's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court appeared to settle the issue in favor of the detainees. But the new legislation approved by Congress last month, which gives Bush the authority to try detainees before military commissions, included a provision removing judicial review for all habeas claims.
The signing ceremony was part political rally for a GOP that is struggling to retain control of Congress three weeks before pivotal midterm elections. Republican leaders said the legislation showed that they were a party of strength and assailed Democrats for not supporting the measure.Those who claim we are exaggerating the potential of this law either have not read the law, or do not understand the law, or are blind to history, or are naive to how power functions, or all of the above.
"The Democratic plan would gingerly pamper the terrorists who plan to destroy innocent Americans' lives," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said.
House Democrats had "voted in favor of new rights for terrorists," Hastert said, adding that the Democrats had "put their liberal agenda ahead of the security of America."
Both chambers of Congress approved the legislation last month in votes largely along party lines.
In the House, 34 Democrats joined 219 Republicans in voting for the bill; 160 Democrats, seven Republicans and one independent voted against it.
In the Senate, 12 Democrats joined 53 Republicans in voting for it; one independent and one Republican joined 32 Democrats in voting against it.
From Robert Parry (with many thanks to Redsock for helping compile these links):
History should record October 17, 2006, as the reverse of July 4, 1776.More from Parry:
From the noble American ideal of each human being possessing "unalienable rights" as declared by the Founders 230 years ago amid the ringing of bells in Philadelphia, the United States effectively rescinded that concept on a dreary fall day in Washington.
At a crimped ceremony in the East Room of the White House, President George W. Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 while sitting behind a sign reading "Protecting America."
On the surface, the law sets standards for harsh interrogations, prosecutions and executions of supposed terrorists and other "unlawful combatants," including al-Qaeda members who allegedly conspired to murder nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.
"It is a rare occasion when a President can sign a bill he knows will save American lives," Bush said. "I have that privilege this morning."
But the new law does much more. In effect, it creates a parallel "star chamber" system of criminal justice for anyone, including an American citizen, who is suspected of engaging in, contributing to or acting in support of violent acts directed against the U.S. government or its allies anywhere on earth.
The law strips "unlawful combatants" and their alleged fellow-travelers of the fundamental right of habeas corpus, meaning that they can't challenge their imprisonment in civilian courts, at least not until after they are brought before a military tribunal, tried under special secrecy rules and then sentenced.
One of the catches, however, is that with habeas corpus suspended these suspects have no guarantee of a swift trial and can theoretically be jailed indefinitely at the President's discretion. Given the endless nature of the "global war on terror," suspects could disappear forever into the dark hole of unlimited executive authority, their fate hidden even from their families.
While incarcerated, the "unlawful combatants" and their cohorts can be subjected to coercive interrogations with their words used against them if and when they are brought to trial as long as a military judge approves.
The military tribunals also could use secret evidence to prosecute a wide range of "disloyal" American citizens as well as anti-American non-citizens. The procedures are similar to "star chambers," which have been employed historically by absolute monarchs and totalitarian states.
The New York Times lead editorial gives false comfort to American citizens by assuring them that they will not be victims of George W. Bush's new draconian system for prosecuting enemies of the U.S. government in military tribunals outside constitutional protections.I've been reading what various bloggers and pundits have to say about this terrible turning point, and I've seen no one who says it more powerfully and more truly than Keith Olbermann. I've got two Olbermann pieces for you today.
"This law does not apply to American citizens," the Times editorial stated, "but it does apply to other legal United States residents. And it chips away at the foundations of the judicial system in ways that all Americans should find threatening." [NYT, Oct. 19, 2006]
However, the Times analysis appears to be far too gentle. While it's true that some parts of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 target non-citizens, other sections clearly apply to U.S. citizens as well, putting citizens inside the same tribunal system with resident aliens and foreigners.
"Any person is punishable as a principal under this chapter who commits an offense punishable by this chapter, or aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures its commission," according to the law, passed by the Republican-controlled Congress in September and signed by Bush on Oct. 17.
"Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States . . . shall be punished as a military commission . . . may direct. ..."
If the Times is correct that "this law does not apply to American citizens," why does it contain language referring to "any person" and then adding in an adjacent context a reference to people acting "in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States"?
Who has "an allegiance or duty to the United States" if not an American citizen? That provision would not presumably apply to Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda, nor would it apply generally to foreign citizens. This section of the law appears to be singling out American citizens. [The whole piece is excellent.]
In the first, which I implore you to watch, Olbermann interviews law professor Jonathan Turley.
In the second, Olbermann gives us a much-needed history lesson.
We have lived as if in a trance. We have lived - as people in fear.If you take away one thing from this post, please watch the Olbermann clips.
And now — our rights and our freedoms in peril — we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid - of the wrong thing.
Therefore, tonight, have we truly become, the inheritors of our American legacy. For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:
A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.
We have been here before — and we have been here before led here — by men better and wiser and nobler than George W. Bush.
We have been here when President John Adams insisted that the Alien and Sedition Acts were necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use those Acts to jail newspaper editors.
American newspaper editors, in American jails, for things they wrote, about America.
We have been here, when President Woodrow Wilson insisted that the Espionage Act was necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use that Act to prosecute 2,000 Americans, especially those he disparaged as "Hyphenated Americans," most of whom were guilty only of advocating peace in a time of war.
American public speakers, in American jails, for things they said, about America.
And we have been here when President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that Executive Order 9-0-6-6 was necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use that Order to imprison and pauperize 110-thousand Americans -
While his man-in-charge -
General DeWitt, told Congress: "It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen — he is still a Japanese."
American citizens, in American camps, for something they neither wrote nor said nor did — but for the choices they or their ancestors had made, about coming to America.
Each of these actions was undertaken for the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.
And each, was a betrayal of that for which the President who advocated them, claimed to be fighting.
Adams and his party were swept from office, and the Alien and Sedition Acts erased.
Many of the very people Wilson silenced, survived him, and -
- one of them even ran to succeed him, and got 900-thousand votes - though his Presidential campaign was conducted entirely - from his jail cell.
And Roosevelt's internment of the Japanese was not merely the worst blight on his record, but it would necessitate a formal apology from the government of the United States, to the citizens of the United States, whose lives it ruined.
The most vital - the most urgent - the most inescapable of reasons.
In times of fright, we have been, only human.
We have let Roosevelt's "fear of fear itself" overtake us.
We have listened to the little voice inside that has said "the wolf is at the door; this will be temporary; this will be precise; this too shall pass."
We have accepted, that the only way to stop the terrorists, is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.
Just the way we once accepted that the only way to stop the Soviets, was to let the government become just a little bit like the Soviets.
Or substitute: the Japanese.
Or the Germans.
Or the Socialists.
Or the Anarchists.
Or the Immigrants.
Or the British.
Or the Aliens.
The most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.
And, always, always - wrong.
"With the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?"
And ironic ones, Mr. Bush.
Your own, of course, yesterday, in signing the Military Commissions Act.
You spoke so much more than you know, Sir.
Sadly — of course — the distance of history will recognize that the threat this generation of Americans needed to take seriously… was you.
We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
But even within this history, we have not before codified, the poisoning of Habeas Corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow.
You, sir, have now befouled that spring.
You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order.
You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom.
For the most vital - the most urgent - the most inescapable of reasons.
And — again, Mr. Bush — all of them, wrong.
We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done, to anything the terrorists have ever done.
We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has insisted again that "the United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values" and who has said it with a straight face while the pictures from Abu Ghraib Prison and the stories of Waterboarding figuratively fade in and out, around him.
We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens "Unlawful Enemy Combatants" and ship them somewhere — anywhere — but may now, if he so decides, declare you an "Unlawful Enemy Combatant" and ship you somewhere - anywhere.
And if you think this, hyperbole or hysteria - ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was President, or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was President, or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was President.
And if you somehow think Habeas Corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an "unlawful enemy combatant" — exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this Attorney General is going to help you?
This President now has his blank check.
He lied to get it.
He lied as he received it.
Is there any reason to even hope, he has not lied about how he intends to use it, nor who he intends to use it against?
"These military commissions will provide a fair trial," you told us yesterday, Mr. Bush. "In which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney, and can hear all the evidence against them."
'Presumed innocent,' Mr. Bush?
The very piece of paper you signed as you said that, allows for the detainees to be abused up to the point just before they sustain "serious mental and physical trauma" in the hope of getting them to incriminate themselves, and may no longer even invoke The Geneva Conventions in their own defense.
'Access to an attorney,' Mr. Bush?
Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift said on this program, Sir, and to the Supreme Court, that he was only granted access to his detainee defendant, on the promise that the detainee would plead guilty.
'Hearing all the evidence,' Mr. Bush?
The Military Commissions act specifically permits the introduction of classified evidence not made available to the defense.
Your words are lies, Sir.
They are lies, that imperil us all.
"One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks," - you told us yesterday - "said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America."
That terrorist, sir, could only hope.
Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.
Habeas Corpus? Gone.
The Geneva Conventions? Optional.
The Moral Force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.
These things you have done, Mr. Bush, they would be "the beginning of the end of America."
And did it even occur to you once sir — somewhere in amidst those eight separate, gruesome, intentional, terroristic invocations of the horrors of 9/11 — that with only a little further shift in this world we now know — just a touch more repudiation of all of that for which our patriots died —
Did it ever occur to you once, that in just 27 months and two days from now when you leave office, some irresponsible future President and a "competent tribunal" of lackeys would be entitled, by the actions of your own hand, to declare the status of "Unlawful Enemy Combatant" for - and convene a Military Commission to try - not John Walker Lindh, but George Walker Bush?
For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.
And doubtless, sir, all of them — as always — wrong.