Attacking habeas corpus

Republican Senator Lindsey O. Graham of So. Carolina is not up for re-election until 2008, and I cannot find that South Carolina has any provisions for a recall campaign except for its statewide offices. Presumably this is partly why Graham was picked to spearhead the White House attack on habeas corpus.

“HABEAS CORPUS. Lat. (You have the body.) The name given to a variety of writs, (of which these were anciently the emphatic words,) having for their object to bring a party before a court or judge.”

“The sole function of the writ is to release from unlawful imprisonment. . . The office of the writ is not to determine prisoner’s guilt or innocence, and ONLY ISSUE WHICH IT PRESENTS IS WHETHER PRISONER IS RESTRAINED OF HIS LIBERTY BY DUE PROCESS.” (Black’s Law Dictionary, 4th ed., caps added)

Make no mistake. Current moves in our GOP-dominated Congress regarding the “detention” of “terrorists” are not security measures. They do not defend the American people. They do not protect us from actual terrorists — some of whose relatives may well have been shepherded out of the U.S. right after 9/11 by this White House. They do not attack terrorists. They attack the ancient right of habeas corpus, which underlies our most immediate freedoms, namely the everyday right NOT to have our persons or property seized without reason, or for unnamed reasons.

This point is so fundamental that it is impossible that Sen. Graham fails to understand it. Lindsey Graham is an attorney, and every law student is required to take a Constitutional Law course in law school.

Only the most ignorant or gullible person, and Mr. Graham is neither, could honestly believe that accused terrorists should be treated differently from other accused persons. An accusation is still an accusation. Only to the abjectly ignorant, and Mr. Graham is not that, does the word “terrorist” mean “someone with magical powers.” Only a pitiably ignorant, rabidly bigoted or quasi- illiterate individual could seriously believe that accused terrorists have such telepathic powers, like Johnny Carson in his turban reading an envelope through his forehead, that our security is undermined by — by what? By merely telling them the charges against them.

Any infringement on habeas corpus is a straight-out, cynical taking advantage of ignorance.

But worse than that, it is a practice that puts all of us in danger of the same fate as accused terrorists. Make no mistake. This is not a practice that can be limited to one category of individuals. The basis of the right of a writ of habeas corpus is humanity. You don’t have to be some special kind of person; you just have to be a person. Therefore, since we are all people, any law or procedure that takes it away, takes it away from all of us.

If anyone can be detained without even being told the charges against him — then, anyone can be detained without being told the charges against him or her.

It is small consolation that Sen. Graham himself could become a “detainee.” By the time things get so horrendous, so overt, that even individuals like him rebel, the damage will be irretrievable.

 

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