Once again I received one of those requests to send a message to my Congressman in my e-mail. Now I am so backed up with e-mail that this item was posted nearly a week ago. But it got my attention.
Actually, I have been meaning for some time to address the issue at hand in conjunction with an AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION campaign. But it was a request for action from TRUE MAJORITY (see the item under President or King?) that finally stirred me to action. They asked me to send the following message:
The right of habeas corpus is one of the oldest founding principles of our democracy – the right of someone held by the government to ask why they have been seized. THE MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT cancelled that right, and I insist that Congress restore it. I urge you to support efforts by REP. JERROLD NADLER to add language which does that into the Defense Authorization Bill, and also to back bills such as the Habeas Restoration Act.
Of course, I felt compelled to sound off at greater length. So I whipped up the rant below. It was too long to go into the editable message, so I sent the above and then e-mailed the whole shebang separately to my Congressman, DON MANZULLO (R-16). Here is what I had to say:
The hallowed writ of HABIAS CORPUS traces its roots in British Common Law into the mists of antiquity and was codified as early at 1679. The architects of our Constitution viewed it as such a basic cornerstone of individual liberty that it was specifically in Article I, Section 9: “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.”
In the entire history of the
The present administration has shown on-going contempt for both the basic liberties of the American People and for any attempt to constrain its limitless assertion of power by either Courts or Congress and—evidence now suggests—by tampering with the election process itself to thwart the sovereignty of the People.
Surely there are bad people in the world who wish us harm. And there exists a vast array of tools and weapons with which to combat them. The current administrations rush to do so by employing the tools and weapons of despotism itself—torture, illegal detention, rigged star chamber courts, indefinite sentences, and the denial of any review by any court anywhere—condemns us in the eyes of the world and in our own shocked consciences.
The President has claimed that much of this is permissible because most of those so detained are not American citizens subject to the protection to the Constitution or legitimate combatants who can claim protection under the traditional protections of the GENEVA CONVENTIONS. That these individuals may enjoy any fundamental rights as human beings protected by any species of international law, is contemptuously dismissed.
But the President’s ambitions to crush the right of habeas corpus do not end with swarthy, alien “ISLAMOFASCISTS” for whom he believes the American people will waste no sympathy, but to American citizens captured abroad either “in arms” against the United States or suspected of conspiring to assist international terrorists. He also wishes to include citizens, legal alien residents, and aliens of all immigration status arrested in the
The vague definitions and broad powers of the PATRIOT ACT make it possible for the Administration to classify as “Terrorists” just about any one they choose on criteria they make up and do not have to disclose to anyone. Construed loosely any one in opposition to the government could be so designated if they acted in a “conspiracy” which aims to influence policy through “violence.” A rowdy demonstration, even passive resistance that results in violence by the authorities could result in a group and any one associated with it to be declared “terrorists.”
That this administration has not yet sunk to such depths is small comfort. They clearly desire to have at least the ability to do so.
To be frank, my appeal to you in defense of habeas corpus can be attributed solely to personal cowardice. I have mocked and ridiculed this administration. I have done my very best fist to stop an illegal war and then to end it. I have marched, spoken, written in open opposition. I have encouraged “resistance” and “rebellion” against a government I consider both illegitimate (by virtue of obtaining power by election fraud and perpetuating itself in a range on illegal, un-Constitutional usurpations of authority.) I have “associated” through various organizations and in communications others who hold similar views, with some of whom have occasionally broken the law and others who will do so in the future. I reserve my right as a free citizen to resist oppression, even by my own government as outlined by Thomas Jefferson in the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
So, if the day comes that George W. Bush decides (or Dick Cheney decides for him) that descent is sufficiently inconvenient, or that the American People—who have already rejected their war, their policy, and ambitions—may be ready to rise up and hold them accountable for their multiple betrayals of the public trust, then I am as likely to hear the midnight knock on the door and to be dragged off to disappear into indefinite detention as any man or woman in this country.
I know that the gossamer restraints of habeas corpus may not in the end restrain any determined despot. But as long as we wish to remain a nation of laws it is some defense.
Congressman Manzullo, I beg you on behalf of my own fear for my own worthless hide, to fully restore the right of habeas corpus.