Monday, June 16, 2008

Habeas Corpus

When you hear the Republicans crying about the Supreme Court, it can only mean one thing -- they did something right!

By now, you've probably heard about last Thursday's Supreme Court decision. Foreign detainees held for years at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have the right to appeal to U.S. civilian courts to challenge their indefinite imprisonment without charges.

John McCain wasted no time blasting the decision, saying it was “One of the worst decisions in the history of this country.” Really, McCain? I don't know. I thought the Dred Scott decision was pretty bad. I also loathe the Bush v. Gore decision.

Scott Ritsema writing for Prison Planet gets it right when he explains that habeas corpus is a right not a privilege:
...where exactly in the text of the Constitution does the Constitution give this right the right of habeas corpus?

You won’t find it. The Constitution only puts limits on the removal of habeas corpus, which implies that human beings possess this right naturally, and that habeas corpus is not some peculiar civil privilege, such as welfare, or some right that only citizens have, such as voting in our elections.

Similarly, human beings possess the rights in the Bill of Rights naturally, and as such, government is prevented from infringing upon them in the first ten amendments to the Constitution. But the rights are not granted by the government or the Constitution; we already had the rights as human beings!

Yes, it's that whole “inalienable rights” thing that a lot of people need to learn about. Inalienable rights cannot be taken away, violated, or transferred from one person to another. They are considered more fundamental than alienable rights, such as rights in a specific piece of property.

What scares me the most is that four Supreme Court justices (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) don't comprehend this basic fact. In Scalia's dissenting opinion he wrote "It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed." I should probably read Scalia's entire opinion, but I sure hope it contains more legal citations than fear-mongering.

Because his fear-mongering argument leaves me perplexed. He certainly agrees that U.S. citizens have the right to habeas corpus... but that certainly does not mean nobody gets convicted! To the contrary, the U.S. has more than 2.3 million people behind bars! Habeas corpus is not some kind of obstacle to a just conviction. It's only an obstacle to an unjust conviction.

John McCain and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are already planning to introduce legislation to undermine the Supreme Court decision by setting up a “national security court." And so, justice be damned, down another unproven path we will go...

If McCain is the next "decider," we can watch this country go down in a blaze of stupidity.

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