[Ppnews] Senate Agrees to Imprisonment Without Charges

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 15 08:53:28 EST 2005

The Senate Agrees to Imprisonment Without Charges

By Mike Whitney

Al-Jazeerah, November 14, 2005

How can the Senate vote to ban habeas corpus?!?

It makes no sense at all. It's like voting for an end to freedom. 
And, yet, this is exactly what happened on Friday, November 11, when 
the Senate passed the (Lindsay) Graham amendment which overturns an 
earlier Supreme Court ruling (Rasul vs. Bush) allowing Guantanamo 
detainees to challenge their imprisonment in federal court. By a 49 
to 42 margin the Senate approved the measure which effectively 
deprives them of the right to know why they are being held or of any 
legal means to defend themselves.

None of the Guantanamo inmates have ever been charged with a crime. 
The Senate vote ensures that they never will.

The action goes beyond a simple dispute with the high court's 
decision to honor the rights of so called "enemy combatants". The 
vote denies the prisoners any civil liberties provided under the Bill 
of Rights, the Geneva Conventions or any other of the human rights 
treaties to which the US is a signatory. It is a blatant attempt to 
rescind the principle that men are entitled to equal treatment under 
the law or that they are innocent until proven guilty. From this 
point on, everyone who has been caught up in Bush's "war on terror" 
dragnet will be presumed guilty.

Habeas corpus is the cornerstone of American jurisprudence dating 
back 800 years in British Law. It allows a detained person to appear 
before a judge to determine the legitimacy of his imprisonment, and 
it forces the state to charge that person with a crime if it intends 
to continue holding him. It is the most fundamental of all human 
rights, and certainly the most important. Without the protection of 
habeas the state is free to disregard the rule of law and jail anyone 
it pleases. The denial of habeas is the beginning of tyranny.

Freedom does not exist in a vacuum; it can only thrive where there 
are restrictions on state power. Civil liberties are the fire-wall 
which protects the citizen from the threat of government abuse. 
Habeas corpus is the foundation upon which the entire scaffolding of 
civil liberties is erected. It is the primary shield against the 
violence of the state.

Senator Lindsay Graham knows all of this; after all he's an attorney. 
And, yet, he has taken this extraordinary step to revoke The Great 
Writ of Liberty (habeas corpus) to confer absolute authority on the president.


Where is the evidence that eviscerating basic liberties improves our 
chances of winning the war on terror?

In case after case, the Bush administration has taken the position 
that the president is above the law and can imprison "terror 
suspects" according to his own discretion. On September 9, 2005 the 
administration won a crucial battle when the 3 judge panel of the 4th 
Circuit Court of Appeals voted unanimously that Bush could continue 
to imprison an American citizen, Jose Padilla, without charging him 
with a crime. The court said that the "Joint Resolution" issued by 
Congress following 9-11 authorized the President to use "all 
necessary force" in fighting the war on terror. This, they concurred, 
allows the president to ignore the Bill of Rights and act on his own judgment.

Once again, the target of Bush's assault in the Padilla case was 
habeas corpus, the ideological nerve-center of American jurisprudence.

Consider the words of Alexander Hamilton who said, the writ of habeas 
corpus protects against "the practice of arbitrary imprisonment . . . 
the favorite and most formidable instrument of tyranny."

Or, this from Justice Antonin Scalia:

"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 Bush administration, under cover of the war on terror, is 
marching inexorably towards a totalitarian state. Since Sept 11 they 
have taken steps to reconfigure the legal landscape and promote their 
vision of the supreme presidency. Their colleagues in the Congress 
and the judiciary have supported their efforts to bolster executive 
power while putting the president beyond the range of accountability. 
All the while, they have calculatingly zeroed in on the essential 
human right upon which liberty depends; habeas corpus, the epicenter 
of American freedom.

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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