Friday, November 11, 2005

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Law

"Power is always gradually stealing away from the many to the few, because the few are more vigilant and consistent; it still contracts to a smaller number, till in time it centers in a single person. Thus all the forms of governments instituted among mankind perpetually tend towards monarchy; and power, however diffused through the whole community, is by negligence or corruption, commotion or distress, reposed at last in the chief magistrate."---Samuel Johnson

stgeorgeandthedragon-raphael A writ of habeas corpus is an ancient legal protection grounded in English Common Law that allows a prisoner to demand an appearance before a court as to the lawfulness of his or her detention. It has always been one of the most basic sovereign rights accorded to individuals by our justice system for protection against an unlawful imprisonment, even before our revolution and the drafting of our constitution. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution states:

Clause 2: 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.
That's "Rebellion or invasion", neither of which have occurred here, regardless of how Bushco tries to deform the definitions of those terms. The BBC gives a quick overview:

" Sir William Blackstone, who wrote his famous Commentaries on the Laws of England in the 18th Century, recorded the first use of habeas corpus in 1305. But other writs with the same effect were used in the 12th Century, so it appears to have preceded Magna Carta in 1215.
Its original use was more straightforward - a writ to bring a prisoner into court to testify in a pending trial. But what began as a weapon for the king and the courts became - as the political climate changed - protection for the individual against arbitrary detention by the state.
It is thought to have been common law by the time of Magna Carta, which says in Article 39: "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor will we send upon him except upon the lawful judgement of his peers or the law of the land."
Over the next few hundred years, concern grew that kings would whimsically intervene on matters of detention, so it was enshrined in law in 1679. "
Now Jerrilyn Merritt at Talk Left reports that the attack on this ancient right that began last spring has geared up:

"Tinkering with habeas corpus is a dangerous thing. Today, Sen. Lindsay Graham and his fellow Senators told you they are only restricting habeas rights of enemy combatants, i.e., foreigners. But on November 16, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a second hearing on S. 1088 (pdf), a bill that would gut habeas corpus rights for Americans.
The legislation, known as the Streamlined Procedures Act, would effectively kill the writ of habeas corpus by stripping federal courts of jurisdiction to consider cases in which a prisoner's constitutional rights may have been violated. The legislation would apply to all criminal cases, including capital cases. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) in the Senate and Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) in the House."
What I don't think these people anticipate is the firestorm of objection that will surely come from, not just bleeding-heart liberals, but foamy-mouthed reactionaries and libertarians as well. The same "unlikely bedfellows" principle that foiled Michael Powell's FCC fold to the media giants will likely prevail in this case as well; simply too many people's oxen stand to be gored. And while this alone keeps me from freaking too heavily behind this bald-faced attempt to deep-six the Constitution, the other part scares me even more deeply: that we ourselves are sending representatives to Washington who neither understand nor care about the law or its protections against tyranny. And that even if this travesty is defeated, the mindset that conceived it is not going to go away.

Is it any wonder Bushco shills have been trying to disembowel the public education system?

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