by Paul Lehto
Habeas corpus -- it's your most fundamental legal right, your right to
go to a court and get an order requiring the government to prove that
it is holding you in prison with proper legal authority to do so.
Without that right, one necessarily lives in a dictatorship. President
Bush today on October 17, 2006 signed a bill repealing that law,
meaning that the administration need not comply or show compliance with
law any more with regard to who goes to prison or Gitmo.
While it supposedly applies just to terrorism cases, that doesn't prevent it from ending the rule of law in the United States for our newly all-powerful Executive. This is true not just because terrorism is construed so broadly in the prohibition of "material support" for terrorism (which by the way has already been held to include a lawyer's press release on behalf of a terrorist client) but because the administration NEED NOT PROVE IT'S REALLY TERRORISM because they don't need to answer to any court in the land at any time.
"Justice" Scalia wrote in the Hamdan case that "the very core of
liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been
freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive."
That very core of liberty died on October 17, 2006 with the signing of
the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and its elimination of habeas
Oh yeah, it also legalized torture wholesale. While misleadingly purporting to prohibit a few forms, upon full analysis it prohibits none. But who's going to know since your relatives won't be able to find out where you are anyway, right? Habeas corpus ("produce the body") was not supposed to mean habeas corpses. Habeas corpus started as soon as human beings had the yearning to breathe free of the abuses of unchecked power of a king, aristocrat or lord, starting around the year 1215. We now have a pre-1215 mentality, all because of fear of some primitive and violent guys living in caves somewhere. Many of us are not intimidated.
Yet the same day as the signing of this Military Commissions Act of 2006, a lawyer following her ethical duty to represent her client and ill with breast cancer was sentenced to 2 and a half years in prison for the simple act of issuing a press release on behalf of a terrorist client in prison, which was judged "materially aiding" terrorism. (Such press releases for unpopular clients are hardly ever printed verbatim in any respect by newspapers, yet the allegation was that there could be a coded communication in the press release and there was a no-communication order in effect.) While this terrorist is a genuine terrorist, there's nothing in the law that distinguishes between representing serious terrorists and representing "innocent terrorists" (if there is such a thing) or minor ones, but in any case, remember, they don't need to comply with habeas and show that you are guilty anyway! At most, they just think to themselves "this guy's a terrorist" and you disappear into the torture chamber with no right to be heard from, even indirectly through your lawyer, which you have no enforceable right to anyway.
Even public opinion will likely not catch up with this because people will just disappear and who knows, maybe the missing person just went off on a lark or a fugue to start a new life, right?
Consequently, on October 17, 2006 freedom died in the United States of America. We now live in a dictatorship. We live in a dictatorship even if you think George W. Bush will be a wise and beneficent king or dictator. It is defined as the possession of absolute power as opposed to checks and balances.
In the Keith Olbermann commentary at the first youtube link below; I agree with Professor Turley (Constitutional Law) that people "really have no idea how significant this is." Turley says we now have an "absolute ruler" which is really just another way of saying dictatorship. He's not kidding. I'm not kidding.
I'll be releasing an extended (and devastating, early readers say) critical piece on this within 48 hours, but in the meantime and after that please consider the importance of this issue is at a WHOLE OTHER LEVEL. It's not an "issue" that we form polite activist groups to respond to.
The Executive Branch now has full discretion to imprison anybody they want to without charge or trial or bail and there will be nothing anybody can do except beg the King. I.e. there's no rule of law applicable to the administration. EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN LAW was essentially repealed, because the administration need not prove to anybody that it has complied with the law by indefinitely detaining you, your relative or anyone else.
The only thing I don't agree with Turley on is this: There is not a giant Yawn, there are a lot of people shocked, many crying, millions disturbed, millions more waking up. It's always hard to be among the first to know and to wait for the rest of the country to catch up, but somebody has to be in that position. Let's not, because we are among the first millions to wake up, send out the message that getting the American dream back is relatively hopeless based on the Yawn seemingly heard today. After all, there is no media echo besides Olbermann to get the word out and reinforce it. But there will be. I also disagree with Turley's approach, even as he makes strongly worded comments that are nevertheless scholarly and restrained in tone and volume, because it's inappropriate and (if you believe in Constitutional rights) not unlike talking in a similar dispassionate tone when a masked man walks into your local elementary school with automatic weapons drawn.
For a more appropriate tone, here's another two minute video below that was filmed right before this bill was signed but it nevertheless applies to this situation, and gives advice on what to do when "they come for your freedom." Paul Revere said "the Redcoats are coming". Today, "the Redcoats already came."
These situation of legalizing torture and eliminating habeas corpus is WAY WAY WAY "out there" in terms of extreme. Bush and his administration are incredibly isolated now, seeking to legalize the very things we prosecuted ourselves in WWII like waterboarding. If I hear anyone even IMPLY that we live in a free country, the correction will be swift. WE DO NOT LIVE IN A FREE COUNTRY ANY MORE. PERIOD.
The hopeful note is this: We can recognize how incredibly isolated both in the world and in our own country this Administration is, and we can turn away, and withdraw any remaining support and respect. But, if we react just in fear, whether fear of Gitmo or fear of torture or fear of terrorists, the dark curtain of dictatorship will descend further and their power will consolidate. In the end, Americans will not be denied freedom in a struggle for freedom on their own soil.
"Freedom is Under Attack" -- Rollins (f-bomb warning, but appropriate IMHO in this context)