The Importance of Habeas: A Personal Plea
On Saturday, I attempted to explain the importance of habeas corpus to the foundations of our legal system and our founding philosophy of government.
But compared to this editorial in today’s WaPo, I failed completely. This editorial is a must read, and I mean that.
It is written by an attorney lifting the heavy load of pro bono legal representation of a man currently held in Guantanimo — and already declared to be innocent of all potential charges — is as clear a statement of why habeas protections must be upheld as you will find anywhere. And why we all need to raise our voices as loudly as possible to our representatives about this issue.
Adel is innocent. I don’t mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.
The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.
Only habeas corpus got Adel a chance to tell a federal judge what had happened. Only habeas corpus revealed that it wasn’t just Adel who was innocent — it was Abu Bakker and Ahmet and Ayoub and Zakerjain and Sadiq — all Guantanamo “terrorists” whom the military has found innocent.
Every single Senator who voted for Lindsey Graham’s hideous abomination of habeas restraint ought to be forced to go down to Guantanimo and explain to this innocent man why he is being held — still — by a government that publicly mouths the word freedom and wags its finger at the rest of the world, all the while stomping on the Constitution and all of the men and women who fought so hard to enact it. For shame.
In a wiser past, we tried Nazi war criminals in the sunlight. Summing up for the prosecution at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson said that “the future will never have to ask, with misgiving: ‘What could the Nazis have said in their favor?’ History will know that whatever could be said, they were allowed to say. . . . The extraordinary fairness of these hearings is an attribute of our strength.”
The world has never doubted the judgment at Nuremberg. But no one will trust the work of these secret tribunals.
Mistakes are made: There will always be Adels. That’s where courts come in. They are slow, but they are not beholden to the defense secretary, and in the end they get it right. They know the good guys from the bad guys. Take away the courts and everyone’s a bad guy.
Stand up and be counted. For Adel. For my child. For every other child in America. For every person who holds human rights to be important, and not just a hollow phrase we throw out to nations we want to publicly shame. Stand up and demand that our deeds match the words we claim to honor in our Constitution.
Stand up for the right of law to triumph over the whims of King George.
TalkLeft has more. They have been on top of this issue from day one, and have some great information on the habeas issue.
UPDATE: Grab your blood pressure meds before reading further. The Graham Amendment was passed…after only one hour of debate. One hour was all the Senate could spare to talk about suspending habeas corpus for people in our custody, for backhanding the Constitution and ignoring our international treaty obligations and the long line of history sustaining the rule of law. One fucking hour. ThinkProgress has the story, major hat tip to them for putting this up. (And a personal note, I rarely swear on these pages, but I am furious, so I apologize to the non-swearing among us.)
UPDATE #2: Sen. Bingaman is speaking on behalf of his amendment to repeal the Graham abomination on the Senate floor right now on C-Span2. If you haven’t called your Senators, please do so. Now.