The Importance of Habeas Corpus and the Suspension of Freedom

Many of the conservative positions taken over the course of the Obama presidency is how American freedoms have suffered and how this country is moving along the lines of fascist/socialist/anti-colonial/communist dictatorship.  Every little thing the Obama government proposes is roundly denounced by the Fox/Rush/Hannity cabal as an assault on American freedom.

Amazingly, we allowed our freedoms to slip away, in a bipartisan manner, during the Bush administration in the name of security.  A fair criticism of the current president is why are we continuing these same practices?  Why do the freedoms of American citizens continue to be compromised?

The leaked White House memo justifying the sanctioned government killings of Americans suspected of terrorist activities against the state has finally percolated to the point of drawing congressional attention proving that the wheels of the U.S. government are pretty slow, when we choose to ignore uncomfortable news.  Consider the fact that Anwar al-Aulaqi, an America citizen, was killed in Yemen in September 2011-without due process-for his role in al-Qaeda plotting against America.

Just a couple weeks later, the Obama administration executed al-Aulaqi’s 16 year son in a drone strike, despite the fact that “proof” of the teenager’s involvement in terrorist activities has never been proven.  But that’s the rub – proof of a crime is no longer required for your government to kill you!

One of the great traditions America incorporated from our British ancestry is the right of Habeas Corpus.  For those that may not fully understand what Habeas Corpus is, and why it is important, the definition follows:

Habeas Corpus, literally in Latin “you have the body” is a term that represents an important right granted to individuals in America. Basically, a writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate requiring that a prisoner be brought before the court to determine whether the government has the right to continue detaining them. The individual being held or their representative can petition the court for such a writ.

Habeas Corpus is enshrined in the American Constitution, not even as an afterthought (like the Bill of Rights – the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution) – it’s actually right there in Article 1, Section 9, commonly referred to as the Suspension Clause:

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.

Such suspensions of Habeas Corpus have occurred in our history.  Presidents Lincoln and Grant exercised the suspension during and after the Civil War.

For well over a century, we took for granted that we have a right to Habeas Corpus – that is until 2006 when it was suspended again when Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 in October that same year.  The law specifies how the country (and the executive branch of the country), has the right to detain and/or execute persons, citizenship aside, determined to be threats to public safety:

‘‘(e)(1) No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

‘‘(2) Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1005(e) of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (10 U.S.C. 801 note), no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.’’.

This was the basis in law that allowed the US government to detain suspects indefinitely and without a right to trial, aliens suspected of being involved in terrorist activities against the state.  The law specifically applies to “aliens” (i.e., non-US citizens); however, in the zeal to protect America from all threats, foreign and domestic, the administration and the Department of Justice have interpreted the law to include all threats, regardless of citizenship.

So next time you hear some jerk-off politician complaining on your AM dial that Obama’s latest effort to put textbooks in schools is following the slippery slope of his communist agenda to destroy America, consider for a moment, just a moment, how stupid that sounds — especially when you have ready-made examples of suspension of freedoms to choose from.

I now return you to your regular scheduled programming of Swamp People or Honey Booboo and you can focus on the things that really matter…

 

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