The Military Commissions Act Blues (with apologies to Don McLean)
Bye-bye to our old Bill of Rights
Heard a lawyer in the foyer: “How’d we fall from such heights?”
With Congress’s twits helping turn off the lights,
Our King George declares that “Habeas bites!”
Congratulations America, with the president’s signing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 we are now in a Habeas Corpus Optional zone. This Act allows the president (or a tribunal selected by him) to disallow a writ of Habeas Corpus for any “unlawful enemy”. While this is bad enough, there is nothing in the Act that prevents any US citizen from being declared an unlawful enemy. Without Habeas Corpus, the Bill of Rights is pretty much meaningless. What’s a right to free speech if you can be thrown into jail without a trial? You won’t have to ever worry about “pleading the fifth” because, you guessed it, there’d be no trial. Get the picture?
Conservative and Republican pundits have claimed that the president wouldn’t do that, but there’s a huge difference between wouldn’t and couldn’t. To phrase it more simply with a little piece of C-like computer code:
WON’T != CAN’T