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The YouTube Defense | The Nation

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The Notion

Unfiltered takes on politics, ideas and culture from Nation editors and contributors.

The YouTube Defense

A teacher, hospital charity worker and father of four, Adel Hamad has been a prisoner at Guantanamo for five years. Like most other detainees at Guantanamo, he's never had a day in court, and never been accused of a crime against the United States. Habeas corpus, for those of you who have forgotten 11th grade civics (admittedly, that's easy to do), is enshrined in our constitution: it means that if the government is holding someone prisoner, it has to say why, and cannot detain that person indefinitely without charge. The detainee has a right to go to court and demand that the state justify his continued incarceration. Last year, with the Military Commission Act, the Congress essentially eliminated habeas corpus for the first time in U.S. history -- and I don't think you have to be imprisoned on Guantanamo to find that scary.

Adel Hamad's lawyers, then, have taken an unusual step: they have given the unclassified documents relating to their client's case to a group of online activists who have formed Project Hamad, a website on the detainee's behalf. They've also made a video about the case and put it on YouTube. The website has a number of actionsyou can take, including signing up to be a "citizen co-sponsor" of Senator (and prez candidate) Christopher Dodd(D-CT)'s proposed Restoring the Constitution Act, which would restore habeas corpus, re-affirm our commitment to the Geneva Conventions, and narrow the definition of enemy combatant, among other civilizing measures. (My colleague Ari Berman mentionedthis bill last week.) Like Hamad's supporters, Dodd, too, is taking the debate to YouTube, encouraging people to make videos of themselves supporting the measure.

It was beyond silly when Time magazine declared "You" the "Person of the Year," but it's inspiring to see people using these technologies to mobilize fellow Americans to demand a little decency from our government. Bush's approval ratings keep slipping, but let's show the world we can do more than simply disapprove.

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