Thursday, October 19, 2006

Habeas Corpus Revisited

Lest we forget that the new detainee law is in effect, a Times editorial today (here) related how, “within hours, (of the Bill being signed) Justice Department lawyers notified the federal courts that they no longer had the authority to hear pending lawsuits filed by attorneys on behalf of inmates of the penal camp at Guantánamo Bay. They cited passages in the bill that suspend the fundamental principle of habeas corpus, making Mr. Bush the first president since the Civil War to take that undemocratic step.”

For the record, in the early 1870s, President Ulysses S. Grant also suspended habeas corpus in nine counties in South Carolina as part of federal civil rights action against the Ku Klux Klan under the 1870 Force Act and 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, so technically Bush would be the second President to suspend the writ since the Civil War, but I digress. The Times editorial also got it wrong when it claimed that the law does not apply to US Citizens. From Nat Hentoff’s piece last week in the Voice: “[T]he Republicans' Military Commissions Act can not only remove this bedrock of our liberty (Habeas Corpus) from prisoners outside the country but can also strip habeas protections from legal immigrants here, as well as from American citizens. This last-minute insertion into the bill was worked out in a closed-door conference at the White House between Republican congressional leaders and presidential advisers, including Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington.”

As Hentoff pointed out, it will take at least a year for the matter to reach the Supreme Court, a year during which I plan to do a considerable amount of praying for the health of 86 year old Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, the author of the Hamden opinion.

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