What is America if it doesn’t believe that all citizens have the rights of habeus corpus? What will America’s message to the world be? Most of you are ok — but some of you evil ones will be tossed into prisons with no recourse, none. Is that what America’s beacon will pulse in the future: impunity?
This is shameful — and promulgated by Senator Lindsey Graham:
The Senate voted Thursday to strip captured “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of the principal legal tool given to them last year by the Supreme Court when it allowed them to challenge their detentions in United States courts.
The vote, 49 to 42, on an amendment to a military budget bill by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, comes at a time of intense debate over the government’s treatment of prisoners in American custody worldwide, and just days after the Senate passed a measure by Senator John McCain banning abusive treatment of them.
If approved in its current form by both the Senate and the House, which has not yet considered the measure but where passage is considered likely, the law would nullify a June 2004 Supreme Court opinion that detainees at Guantanamo Bay had a right to challenge their detentions in court.
Nearly 200 of roughly 500 detainees there have already filed habeas corpus motions, which are making their way up through the federal court system. As written, the amendment would void any suits pending at the time the law was passed.
My former boss who is one of the smartest people in the Senate but not a media hog, Jeff Bingaman, is leading the effort against Graham’s legislation. Bingaman thinks that he can engineer a different vote that strips the Graham motion of the parts limiting habeas corpus.
We’ll have to see if Jeff succeeds — but Graham got 49 votes — and Joe Lieberman was with them (no surprise) — but also Kent Conrad, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, and even Ron Wyden. Ron Wyden?
More later from Berlin.
— Steve Clemons
I am still in Berlin and have not yet had time to read everything regarding this amendment that passed in the Senate yesterday. I have had lots of people contact me that there is an important difference between citizens and non-citizens designated as “enemy combatants”.
At first look and without much thought, I think that the difference noted by others and made in Senator Graham’s legislation only exacerbates my problems with this. America should not be in the business of indefinite detentions for ANYONE. It is vital to our democracy that all enemies, evil-doers, terrorists and all those suspected of such sorts of crimes be tried in a court of law in a SYSTEM of LAW and JUSTICE. All of those held for crimes need to be able to challenge those who are making charges. Otherwise, impunity occurs. Mistakes happen. And we should not allow a system of no recourse in a world where mistakes happen — particularly in the case of non-Americans.
This is a quick note. There may be dimensions to this that I have not considered, but given the track record of the U.S. in many “suspected” terrorist charge claims that turned out wrong, I think it is a huge mistake to empower the federal government with this type of uncontested authority. Call me a conservative if you will — but I don’t trust a government that can not be challenged by all people, citizen or not, in a court of law.
— Steve Clemons (checking in from Berlin)