Friday, September 29th, 2006
The internet(s) are abuzz this morning with a flurry of accumulated outrage related to the Senate debate on what’s being called “the torture bill”—the bill to authorize Military Commissions in such a way that gives the President emperor-like power to define what is torture and establish procedures that circumvent the centuries-old right of the accused to confront his accuser.
I’ll just leave you with a little auxiliary reading. First, of all, Molly Ivins, as she so often does, gets it right.
Illinois senator Barack Obama made some common-sense remarks about what’s really bad about this legislation. It’s sloppy, it’s steeped in political hypocracy, and it does lasting harm to centuries-old agreed common law.
Outside the political bubble, Star Trek actor turned celebrity blogger Wil Wheaton speaks with a clear, simple voice about the pain of having a representative government making these kinds of bad choices in our name. The responsibility, indeed, ultimately falls on all of our shoulders.
And finally, Vermont senator Patrick Leahy (one of my heroes in Congress) says “we have a profoundly important and dangerous choice to make today.”
Habeas corpus provides a remedy against arbitrary detentions and constitutional violations. It guarantees an opportunity to go to court, with the aid of a lawyer, to prove one’s innocence. As Justice Scalia stated in the Hamdi case, “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.” The remedy that secures that most basic of freedoms is habeas corpus.
I can’t help but flash back to a generation of my fellow elementary school classmates looking out the window, chewing gum, or falling asleep as we were taught this very fundamental civics lesson.
And today, those grown-up kids’ hands are on the wheel (in our name!) as the machinery moves forward to dismantle this fundamental protection.