Posted by: L | June 30, 2007

Senate, house fight over habeas corpus coming up…

“Center-stage in the upcoming debate are two pieces of legislation that would amend the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006 to “restore” the habeas corpus rights banned by that law.

In the Senate, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and the Committee’s top Republican, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, have introduced the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007. The measure would restore habeas corpus protections by repealing provisions of the MCA. The legislation was favorably reported out by the Judiciary Committee in May.

In the House, Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) and Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) have introduced legislation that would uphold the principle of habeas corpus by amending the MCA to allow individuals detained, often for many years without formal charges, to have their day in court.”

More at The World According to Bill Fisher.

What the new bills seek to do is to undo the worst part of the Military Commissions Act, under which the executive (i.s. the President and his advisors) got to determine — on their lonesome — who an enemy combatant was and got to strip him of all protection of federal laws.

That meant, he or she could be “disappeared” without so much as a by-your-leave.

Which is exactly what makes a police state….

Habeas Corpus, by the way, is the centuries old jewel of common law that has gone strong from 1215 to….well, until 2006….

“The MCA was rushed through Congress in September to overturn a Supreme Court decision that struck down Bush’s military tribunals and scorning of the Geneva Conventions. The new law -far more dangerous than the more controversial Patriot Act- is perhaps the biggest disgrace Congress has enacted since the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Stephen Grey, the author of Ghost Plane, notes, “The act grants fewer rights to defendants than the Nazis got at Nuremberg,”

said James Bovard in December 2006 at the American Conservative.

My Comment:

It’s interesting that John McCain, who was tortured in Vietnam, doesn’t think torture is the way to go. Guess he wouldn’t know, but a bunch of armchair theorists would.

The US managed to survive a world-wide communist threat (complete with a nuclear arsenal and super power status) for several decades without dismantling the constitution at home or violating anti-torture laws; but a few home-made bombs now — .and the big brave government is quaking. I don’t buy it. The anti-terror laws are a power grab…..nothing more or less, and people are too riled up by propaganda to see it.

By the way, do read the recently released CIA papers (far from exhaustive, of course, and heavily redacted) and you can see just how well covert ops and so-called extra-constitutional methods work (forget about the legality or morality, for a moment). Short answer is — they don’t. There is no information torture can get, which you can’t get from good research and analysis. Before dismantling the constitution and subverting the laws, why don’t they try hiring some trained Arab speakers. Do you know how few people they actually have? Here’s a quote from an article about it:

“Of the 1,000 employees of the massive new US Embassy inside the Green Zone bubble in Baghdad, there are – wait for it – SIX who are fluent in Arabic. In a very real sense, that pitiful number could be a metaphor for one of the most serious flaws in the entire Iraq adventure. We invaded a country about which we knew virtually nothing. Not only didn’t we know the Arabic language, we knew nothing about Iraq’s religious sects, tribes, culture, sensitivities, customs, traditions, mores, or the Byzantine interrelationships among all these attributes. And that predicament is not limited to the State Department, which runs the new embassy. It is also true of the armed services, the CIA, and all the many other parts of our national security apparatus.”

That’s from The World According to Bill Fisher, who’s run economic development programs in the Middle East for the US State Department and USAID for the past thirty years.

The experience of countries who’ve suffered years of terrorism (about ten times more than the US or UK has) – such as India — shows that terror laws don’t work, as I point out in this article; they end up harming innocent people and letting the government control the population even more. Other countries are not setting out on unending wars and dismantling all the legal protections of their citizens just because of a few terror attacks. I thought the west was supposed to be the model for civil liberties. Guess it isn’t any more.

The working rule is — the means you use to tackle a problem have to be proportionate to the crime. When you have a murderer loose, you don’t bomb the entire neighborhood to catch him. You also don’t torture people to get information about him.

Terrorists aren’t even simple murderers – they are political actors, mostly. So those rules should go double for them.

They are – whether we see it that way or not – people with political grievances, who are conducting war by other means…..just like those pilots who go into countries whose air defensives have been destroyed and carpet bomb civililans. I guess if that happened in the US – people here would fight back by any means too. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

We did not torture a psychopath like Ted Bundy. Why should we torture terrorists who are rational actors? Here’s the logic — terrorists are out to destroy our freedoms, so let’s give our freedoms up on our own, before the terrorists take them away – that’s a rather odd argument, I think.

And where are those freedoms now, anyway? Besides running our mouths on blogs, I can’t off-hand think of many ways we are all that free these days. Your property can be confiscated, the government can open your mail, tap your phones, look up your financial information, deny you work, prosecute you and jail you – under so-called terror laws – for just about anything — without due process. And they can strip you of all your rights and declare you a non-citizen, while they’re at it.

Who benefits?

And why worry about terrorists wanting to dismantle this country, when its own citizens –from its financiers and politicians down to the population – are doing a pretty good job on their own……


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