Talking to myself about foreign policy, US politics, technology, &c.

Habeas Corpus Not Quite Dead?

Of all the unsettling bits of creeping authoritarianism that have occurred in this administration, one of the most alarming would have to be the undermining of the ancient right of Habeas Corpus, known as the Great Writ.

Basically it means that if you are locked up by the government, you have a right to go before a judge to make sure there’s a law that says you can be imprisoned. Doesn’t matter whether you’re guilty or innocent; habeas simply ensures that there is some justification for your trip to the Stateville Pen.

Through an appalling little shell game, Bush and his administration have created a situation where people – even U.S. citizens – can be declared “enemy combatants” and shipped off to Gitmo. That charming vacation destination is not technically a part of the United States thanks to a little treaty with Cuba from back in 1913 or so. We’ve got the lease, but Cuba retains “ultimate sovereignty,” whatever that means.

And so the ruling regime has argued that US courts have no right to intervene there – even to hear habeas appeals as to whether there is a right to lock the prisoners up in the first place. Strangely, the Cuban courts haven’t stepped in to offer their judgments.

Fortunately, that may be coming to an end. The spineless Arlen Specter – who could have prevented this mess in the first place – is teaming up with Pat Leahy on the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass the “Habeas Corpus Restoration Act.”

It’ll be – hopefully – voted out of Judiciary this Thursday. Get in on the fun and do your part; Leahy has a web site where you can learn more and get involved.

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