Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The death of habeas corpus

The principle of habeas corpus is a demand that free people make toward state power. If free people are going to respect a state's power to lock people up, then that state must respect a free people's demand to see the causes and the evidence for any arrest. In other words, a writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he should be released from custody.

So it is chilling to read the section on habeas corpus Matters included in the recently passed Military Commissions Act of 2006 (passed both by House and Senate by a 2-1 margin):

"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."
What this section says that in the eyes of the United States, aliens are not to be granted the privileges of a free people. And this makes the United States a threat to free people everywhere. Besides, if justices would feel independent from the President, it is obvious that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is unconstitutional.

There are so-called "conservatives" who say that the United States does not owe the right (sic) of habeas corpus to aliens. They argue that habeas corpus is a "Constitutional Right" and therefore a "right" that belongs exclusively to the people of the people of the United States.

But the "right"of habeas corpus is not a right; it is a privilege (i.e., Art I, Sec 9, Clause 2 of the Constitution) and was not invented by the United States Constitution. It cannot be trademarked as territorial property, made by, or exclusively for citizens for the USA. Habeas corpus was written into the U.S. Constitution because it was already in the 18th century a time-honored principle for free people everywhere.

A state that revokes its own obligations to habeas corpus is a state that declares itself infallible. And an infallible state is either exceptionally wise or exceptionally dangerous. But if the American people believe that their leadership is exceptionally wise, shouldn't they revoke habeas corpus for themselves, first?

It's scandalous enough that Congress would revoke habeas corpus, but when Congress does it just a month before it goes up for re-election, the timing suggests that we have become a nation of vicious people who would cheer the unfreedom of others in the name of freedom for themselves.

In the Military Commissions Act of 2006 we find a mirror to show us what we have become in the name of the twin towers massacre of 9/11. Just a little ways down the page from the sentence that revokes habeas corpus for alien combatants is another sentence that makes the new rules retroactive to Sep. 11, 2001.

But I hear some readers asking, "What's wrong with locking up a terrorist and throwing away the key?" To which I answer, "Maybe nothing." But when a state gets to declare in advance who the terrorist is and never is obligated to respect that person's right to due process, then we have made a state which can declare its own infallibility. And what free people can applaud the idea of an infallible state that can lock people up and throw away the key.

In our coming elections to the Congress of the United States, we will choose between those who voted for an infallible state and those who voted against it. And in our choices at the ballot box, we will tell the rest of the world whether the people of the United States will stand with them or against them when it comes to support the traditions of free people wherever they happen to be born.

P.S.: Keith Olbermann published a funny but factual video about habeas corpus. Watch!


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home