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Habeas Corpus is Missing | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Habeas Corpus is Missing

For the past seven years, George Bush has repeatedly violated the Constitution. Even worse, Congress has knowingly let it happen.

There's been the legalization of torture, warrantless wiretaps and the Military Commissions Act (MCA), which gives the president absolute power to decide who is an enemy of the US, to imprison people indefinitely without charging them with a crime, and to define what is -- and what is not -- torture and abuse.

This act represented an unprecedented attack on the basic system of habeas corpus--a fundamental Constitutional right that protects against unlawful and indefinite imprisonment. Translated from Latin it means "show me the body." It has acted historically as an important instrument to safeguard individual freedom against arbitrary executive power.

The MCA, passed by the Republican Congress soon before the 2006 elections, was sparked by the Supreme Court's ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that the original military commission system established by President Bush to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay was unfair and illegal.

This wide-ranging legislation eliminated a cornerstone of the Constitution by depriving habeas corpus rights from certain individuals and allowing the US government to continue to hold hundreds of prisoners indefinitely and without recourse.

In response, the Restoring the Constitution Act, introduced by Senator and Presidential candidate Christopher Dodd, Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Congresswoman Jane Harman restores habeas corpus and due process to detainees held at Guantanamo Bay and to other detainees held by the federal government.

Moreover, this bill would prevent the current and future presidents from making up their own rules on torture, and make clear that the federal government must comply with the Geneva Conventions. The bill asserts that the Constitution is the law of the land -- and that no president can make up his or her own rules regarding torture and abuse.

The ACLU has created a website to help promote grassroots support for restoring the US Constitution. Sign the petition which will be delivered to Congress on June 26 (the one-year anniversary of the MCA's ratification), learn more about the issue, encourage others to get involved and implore your legislators to support Dodd and Nadler's bill. This is one issue left, right and center should agree on.

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