STACLU MIsses the Point

Jay at STACLU is foaming at the mouth over Patrick Leahy saying that he wants to try and pass a bill to prevent the administration from arbitrarily removing habeas corpus protection in individual cases. "Leahy Vows To "Restore" Habeas Corpus For Terrorists", the headline screams; as usual, this misses the point completely. If there was a STACLU during the constitutional convention, the headline would say, "Madison vows to give 'trials' to criminals." But the whole point of habeas corpus is to provide a means of discerning criminals from non-criminals.

Typical moonbat that thinks this Act was "damage" to our Constitution. The truth is that Leahy is hoping to create rights for our enemies. He wouldn't be "restoring" anything.

Habeas corpus requires that there be a venue - a court of law - where someone accused of breaking the law can confront his accusers and make a case for his innocence. In this case, it provides a means of discerning who is and is not actually our enemy. The fact is that there have been innocent people detained and tortured in this war, and without any right to habeas corpus they have no opportunity to even make the case for their innocence. Thus, we are left with no way to know who is actually the enemy and who is falsely accused of being the enemy.

And contrary to the idea STACLU wants to sell, this does not only apply to "foreign terrorists", it applies to American citizens as well. The Military Commissions Act passed a few weeks ago declares that anyone accused of being a terrorist or of aiding terrorists by a Department of Defense committee is not only presumed to be guilty, but has no redress available to them whatsoever. It attempts to forbid the courts from even hearing their claims of innocence, much less overruling the administration's accusations. This is exactly the kind of unchecked authority that our entire constitution was written to prevent. And yes, it applies to American citizens arrested in our own country just as it applies to those captured on the battlefield.

We know beyond all doubt that there are terrorists out there who will stop at nothing to destroy this country. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are also people falsely accused of those crimes. And there must be some means of weeding them out. Our constitution provides those means by providing the accused the opportunity to face their accusers and present a case for their innocence. By STACLU's reasoning, all of the due process protections found in the constitution are just "giving rights to criminals."

The fact that the Bush administration claims the inherent authority (inherent being a key word, because to them this means unchallengable and unchangable) to do away with this basic protection for all of us suggests that they are trying to beat the terrorists to the punch by destroying our entire system of jurisprudence before the bad guys can do it. These are the true anti-Americans.

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Why does Jay at STACLU hate due process? Why does he want the President to have powers no English ruler has had since at least the Magna Carta? Why are there so many proto-fascists in the world? What is so bloody inconvenient about having the government be required to establish an actual reason or legal cause for imprisoning a person?

Habeas corpus is a protection against unlawful detention. The only reason this is an issue at all is because the Bush administration has made it a habit to pursue unlawful policies.

The principle is simple:

Terrorists will not destroy us. What will destroy us is what we do to ourselves because of our fear of the terrorists.

That's why they call it terrorism. As bad as the death and destruction they cause is, that's not their goal. Their goal is to make us so afraid that we do their work for them, and destroy ourselves.

By David Noziglia (not verified) on 14 Nov 2006 #permalink

The right wing has always hated habeas corpus and an independent judiciary, so Jay's nonsense is not unusual in the least. They all have a pipeline to God so they have no need for the niceties of a legal system. Hang anyone you hate. God will understand.

I think it is caused by a deep rooted distrust in the legal system. They fear that a terrorist could slip through on a technicality, and that's simply unacceptable, even if it means taking away rights from those who are legitimately innocent.

And that thought, Matthew will always frighten me. Better to let 100 guilty free etc, etc.

By Anuminous (not verified) on 14 Nov 2006 #permalink

Ed Said:

And contrary to the idea STACLU wants to sell, this does not only apply to "foreign terrorists", it applies to American citizens as well. The Military Commissions Act passed a few weeks ago declares that anyone accused of being a terrorist or of aiding terrorists by a Department of Defense committee is not only presumed to be guilty, but has no redress available to them whatsoever. It attempts to forbid the courts from even hearing their claims of innocence, much less overruling the administration's accusations.

While I share this interpretation of the statute, to be fair it's actually somewhat ambiguous. Jack Balkin has a good rundown of the relevant issues here. In a nutshell, under the MCA Section 948a, a US citizen can be defined as an enemy combatant. However:

Section 948b states that "[t]his chapter establishes procedures governing the use of military commissions to try alien unlawful enemy combatants." So the MCA's procedures apply only to aliens; not to citizens. Nevertheless, Congress has declared that persons falling into the definition in 948a are unlawful enemy combatants whether they are aliens or citizens.

Part of the problem with this heinous bill is in its ambiguity. The Bush Administration has already shown that it is going to take the most militaristic, anti-liberty stance on these issues at every opportunity, so leaving the question open in a horribly-crafted piece of legislation like this is tantamount to surrendering to them.

This was a thrown-together-at-the-last-minute, arbitrated-in-secret-committee bill which even those supporting it hadn't read in its final version before it got signed. No one really knows what it means at this point, which essentially means the Administration is going to be able to interpret it however they want, at least until (hopefully) the Supreme Court strikes it down.

It's a great example of many things, not the least of which is the need for something like the "Read the Bills" legislation. It's unconscionable that such vague and dangerous language got signed into law, beyond even the vileness of the underlying concepts.

What amazes me about the whole debate is the bizarre rhetoric that people throw around. I don't think that anybody on either side of the American political system wants terrorists to win. Anybody who claims they do is trying to sell you something that they can't sell through rational discourse. I would think that this fact would be plainly obvious to anybody with any common sense, but apparently it's not.

By Troublesome Frog (not verified) on 14 Nov 2006 #permalink

I would think that this fact would be plainly obvious to anybody with any common sense, but apparently it's not.

It is, actually, as long as you retain the modifier..."with any common sense."

Among Bush's rhetoric going into Vietnam II, were claims about how the love of freedom resides deep in the breasts of all men. Well that's simply not true. People like Jay and the STACLU guys don't crave freedom above all else. Look at what they want. They want to surrender all their rights to the government, who will then protect them from the evil muslims and liberals. Jay wants Bush the Strongman, unhindered by puny legislators, who will waterboard and sic dogs and disappear all those who threaten glorious nation of America.

While I agree with the general tenor of Ed's post, there is one point which needs to be made clear.

Although the purpose of a court proceeding is to establish guilt or innocence beyond reasonable doubt, strictly speaking the burden of proof should be on the prosecution, NOT the defence. No one should have to "prove" their innocence, although one might well conclude from the anti-terrorism legislation both in the US and in Australia that the mere allegation of terrorism is enough. It's amazing how self-styled conservatives are so ready to abandon long-cherished legal principles, which (one might think) real conservatives would firmly stick to.

By John Monfries (not verified) on 14 Nov 2006 #permalink

Sorry to be entering the conversation so late, but seriously, why don't more people get it? I mean: that our laws must protect everyone--or they protect no one. I've heard the old, lame statement "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about" and I can't understand why they don't see that it's a question of someone in authority (who might not like you for some reason) having the power to cause you very great harm.

Imagine a Deputy Dawg somewhere "finding" evidence in your possession that might suggest you were a terrorist. Without the rule of law, you could be put away without recourse for a very, very long time. Cripe! Even honest mistakes happen, sometimes.

We know there have been innocent people imprisoned as "terrorists". Isn't that enough?

Sadly, apparently not.

By John Horst (not verified) on 16 Nov 2006 #permalink

From the STACLU post:

How nice of Leahy to "restore" something they never had in the first place! The supposed rights of habes for enemy combatants never existed and still doesn't. The only thing that the last few Supreme Court decisions addressed is if enemy combatants can APPLY for habeas protections, NOT that they should automatically have them.

Enemy combatants aren't granted habeas corpus in the first place, so why was the law necessary, hmm?

The opponenets of the law aren't arguing to give habeas corpus rights to enemy combatants. The law they oppose takes habeas corpus away from EVERYONE. The president can decide who is and is not an enemy cobatant and who deserves due process and who doesn't. The president should not have that power.

That's where STACLU misses the point, as well as any other proponents of this totalitarian law.