September 19, 2007

Fearful Republicans Filibuster

A Republican filibuster in the Senate today shot down a bipartisan effort to restore the right of terrorism suspects to contest their detentions and treatment in federal courts...


The detainee rights bill was an effort to reverse a provision of last year's Military Commissions Act, which suspended the writ of habeas corpus for terrorism suspects at the military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other off-shore prisons.

The Supreme Court had previously ruled that such detainees did have the right to appeal their detentions in federal court, but the court invited Congress to weigh in on the issue. At the urging of the Bush administration, the Republican-controlled Congress last year voted to sharply limit detainee access to the courts.

The authors of last year's bill staunchly defended that decision this morning, saying advocates of habeas corpus rights for detainees would open the federal courts to endless lawsuits by the nation's worst enemies.

"To start that process would be an absolute disaster for this country," said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), an Air Force Reserve lawyer who was instrumental in crafting the provision in last year's bill. "I cannot think of a more ill-advised effort to undermine a war that I think will be a long-standing effort."

Had you asked me a few years ago, I'd have said there was absolutely no way an American lawyer would ever have advocated the destruction of habeas corpus, aka The Great Writ, the concept in law which says that a government must justify its detention of an individual to the governed. Yet last year the Senate passed S. 3930, which says in part:

Amends federal criminal justice provisions to deny any court or judge jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of, or to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, treatment, or trial of, an alien detained outside the United States who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

I can only conclude that the 43 Senators who voted in favor of this filibuster have lost faith in the law they're sworn to uphold and live in a perpetual state of fear. The people who live in the states they represent should bear that in mind when they go to the polls again; these men and women prefer authoritarian rule to the rule of law.

Posted by Linkmeister at September 19, 2007 09:32 AM | TrackBack

Thoughtful comments.
One of the greatest aspects of our country is the manner in which we treat not just citizens, but "persons" as clearly stated in the Constitution. When we start abridging rights of others we open the door to the removal of our own rights. God willing, this country will continue to show others the way to live justly, with laws that protect everyone.

Posted by: Larry Hansen at September 19, 2007 09:28 PM