The Corpse of Habeas Corpus

By David Chandler

David ChandlerWith the passage of the Detainee Interrogation Bill, the United States has now crossed the line to become a totalitarian government. Fundamental legal principles that date back to the Magna Carta (1215 AD), the foundation of the legal systems of the Western world, have been trashed with the stroke of a pen.

Think about it. How would you define totalitarian? Under this bill, the government can arrest and detain indefinitely, without formal charges, without trial, without legal counsel, without due process, without judicial recourse, anyone it wants, citizen or alien, based solely on accusation by the administration, which is also given the right to interpret the Geneva Conventions any way it wants. Furthermore it can hold tribunals and admit evidence obtained without warrant and information obtained through torture, and you're not even given the right to examine the evidence being used against you. If you are a non-citizen (even a legal resident alien), you don't even have the right of habeas corpus, the right to challenge the legality of your detention. In other words, you can't even present evidence that they got the wrong guy.

You think I'm making this up? Go to Google, type in "Detainee Interrogation Bill" and see for yourself.

This is not about the rights of terrorists. It is about the rights of innocent people who may be falsely accused of being terrorists. It is about your right to act and speak in accordance with your beliefs without fear of being targeted by an administration that can act in secrecy with impunity and subject you to trial by false accusation. It will most likely be applied, most of the time, to people who don't look like you, but if you take comfort in that, don't bother calling yourself a Christian, or a Jew or a follower of any other of the world's great religions. For that matter, don't bother thinking of yourself as an American or an enlightened human being.

This bill does not apply just to terrorist acts. It applies to anyone accused of "materially supporting" terrorism or anyone else hostile to the United States. Keep in mind that terrorism is whatever the administration says it is, and pretty much the whole world is becoming hostile to the United States. You can be targeted for working for humanitarian causes the administration disapproves of. You don't even have to actively work for these causes. Any money you give to a charity that supports another charity that supports causes the administration doesn't like could subject you to a one-way trip through the trap door of accusation without recourse. Environmental organizations, anti-war organizations, and organizations that support various oppressed peoples in different parts of the world (South Africa, Central America, Asia, the Middle East) have all been dubiously labeled "terrorist" at various times. According to Molly Ivins, "One person has already been charged with aiding terrorists because he sold a satellite TV package that includes the Hezbollah network."

This is not a partisan political message. It is a call to re-examine what America is all about. This legislation does more damage to America than any terrorist organization anywhere. Does this sound shrill? I would be negligent if it were not.

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