Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Restore Habeas Corpus

Image credit: National Archives

I wrote this to one of my Senators today:

It's ironic that you have a subject line for international human rights, but not for domestic human rights. Until a few years ago, I would have thought the need for such a subject area laughable.

Unfortunately, we no longer live in those times. The right of habeas corpus was rescinded last year by the Military Commissions Act. This year, Sens. Dodd and Leahy are proposing an amendment to the defense bill, S2202, that will restore this right. Habeas Corpus is the most basic right. It isn't protection for terrorists, criminals, or other undesirables, as many charlatans would have you believe. It is protection for us from our own government. Please vote to restore it.

And here's a part of what I wrote the other Senator:

It's ironic that you have a subject line for terrorism, but not for human rights. I'm far more worried these days about the lawless behavior of my own government than I am about terrorism. The terrorists are mostly overseas. My government is right here, and it's much more powerful than any terrorist organization.

Please do whatever you can today to persuade your Senators to vote for this amendment, and more importantly, to vote for cloture on the bill. According to Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake, the vote may come as soon as tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 19). Christy also has a list of Senators who particularly need persuasion at this point. Rather than repeat it here, I'll just encourage you to click on the link and get the latest.

If you want some arguments to use, I'd suggest going here and reading. You can also read what I wrote to my Senators, because to me, that's the most basic point - habeas corpus protects us from our government. It's not protection for terrorists. It protects you so the government can't declare you're a terrorist, or whatever the undesirable character of the month is, and then throw you in jail for the rest of your life. Think that can't happen to you? I bet Jose Padilla did, too. The government kidnapped him and tortured him. Some psychologists assert that they destroyed his personality. At the very least, they kept him behind bars for three years, and then managed to convict him for a different terrorism-related offense where the jury was never informed of his treatment. If they had been, they probably would have wondered if the man could have conducted his own defense:

In his affidavit, Mr. [Andrew] Patel said, “I was told by members of the brig staff that Mr. Padilla’s temperament was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of ‘a piece of furniture.’ ”

Video Is a Window Into a Terror Suspect’s Isolation

I bet the prosecutors were proud of that conviction, eh? They should have tried him for kidnapping the Lindbergh baby while they were at it.

Compared to most of us, the federal government has almost infinite resources. Think of the cost of keeping a man for three years in a ten-cell block of prison cells, or of all the interrogations, "escorts" that sound more like a mugging than law enforcement, or any of the other indignities Padilla was subject to. The only protection we have from it is the rule of law, and habeas corpus.

UPDATE (Sept. 19): Looks like the cloture vote went 56-43, with Sen. Reid switching his vote at the last minute to table the vote for later. The roll call on that vote is now up (h/t CHS at Firedoglake). If we really had a "liberal media" in this country, it would be pointing out the obvious - that the Senate Democrats refused to filibuster the MCA and other horrendous acts when they came up, and the Republicans are happy to threaten a filibuster for them now.


Anonymous said...

Hey cujo
Since I've been back from my break, I haven't seen you around FDL so much. I linked from your appearance today. Your site and your commentary are wonderful, congratulations. I have bookmarked and intend to return and enjoy. I hope you are otherwise well.

Cujo359 said...

Hi zennurse,

Yes, I haven't been around FDL so much. I've been busy, and I feel sometimes like I'm just lost in the crowd over there. Anyway, I'm fine, and thanks for the compliment.

Hope you're doing well. I'll try to catch up with you next time I'm at FDL,


Anonymous said...


Upon invasion or rebellion
So Congress may suspend
Habeas corpus--no medallion
Of freedom, I contend:

It is the utter substance of
Our free society
To have such law--but people love
Not so much being free.

Rather so many as adhere
Unto a kind of cult
Of personality, appear
To find law worth assault:

"Whom we declare ´the worst of worst,´ "
These are the words they say,
"We may deal with them as we durst
Or spirit them away."

These are the satisfied cabal
If not "above the law"
Outside the law are in--appall
My heart that final straw.

"Outside so we are in" declares
That crew: "Whom we proclaim
´Worst of the worst,´ without shed tears
We may treat as ´fair game.´

(Believing ourselves righteous far
Above the common run,
We are the law, and set the par
According to what´s done.)"

Thus slips into the lexicon
A new phrase, "disappear one."
The law as it is newly spun
Provides no means to clear one

When on him is suspicion set:
"We take the key and lose it,
Nor relatives, or since or yet
Hear peeps from that locked closet.

At first it was just foreigners
We claimed ´the worst of worst´ is,
Yet now to citizens adheres
This habeas interstice."

Thus is the case presented while
The masses ignorantly smile--
Cult membership so pleases them
As habeas slips they haw and hem
Absurdly glad, or in denial--
It´s so much easier to condemn
The "worst of worst" when there´s no trial!