Habeas, Schmabeas

Shared by Seamus

Jesus Fucking Christ…. is it 2009 yet?

Maybe Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri really is a bad man. Or maybe he’s another Jose Padilla, and guilty of far less than what the government is claiming. What’s clear, is that what the government is arguing is some scary, scary stuff:

Al-Marri’s capture six years ago might be the Bush administration’s biggest domestic counterterrorism success story. Authorities say he was an al Qaeda sleeper agent living in middle America, researching poisonous gases and plotting a cyberattack.

To justify holding him, the government claimed a broad interpretation of the president’s wartime powers, one that goes beyond warrantless wiretapping or monitoring banking transactions. Government lawyers told federal judges that the president can send the military into any U.S. neighborhood, capture a resident and hold him in prison without charge, indefinitely.

If the president gets these powers, it’s the end, gang. The writ of habeas corpus is 400 years old. The Bush administration is, rather incredibly, arguing that the “commander in chief” power of the U.S. Constitution authorizes them to vaporize it. Even if you subscribe to a Hinderaker-esque view of the current president, just remember, every future president will have this power, too. Think about the asinine process by which we chose our presidents. Think about what sorts of character traits it takes to want to go through all of the bullshit we’ve seen already this campaign season, and what traits it takes not only to endure all of that, but to win. Now think about giving those people these kinds of powers.

The Bush administration has defined “terrorism” in broad, vague terms. As Charlie Savage points out in his book Takeover, it includes not only Islamic terrorism, but domestic terrorism, and the Bush administration claims these powers not just against terrorists, but against the people who “aid” them. Savage explains that, for example, a more liberal president could claim these same powers against the farmers in the mountains of North Carolina who are suspected of helping Olympic Park and abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph evade the police.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a question of whether such people, or whether such people as al-Marri, should be prosecuted. We’re talking about whether we should give the president the authority to arrest and detain such people—American residents (and, the Bush administration has argued, American citizens)—without giving them a trial . . . forever.

The Bush administration is claiming its wartime powers give it this broad authority. But the war the administration says we’re fighting isn’t against Iraq or Afghanistan. It isn’t a war for which there will ever be a peace accord or the signing of a treaty. It’s a war against “terrorism.” It’s a war that quite literally is never going to end. And so any “wartime” powers we grant the executive, are powers we’re granting to the executive permanently.

It’ll take decades to figure out just how much damage this president has done to the Constitution. And it’s really almost impossible to overstate just how serious this is.

Post taken from Google Reader

~ by kinshay on 2008-05-25.

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