Gutting the Constitution

The single most disturbing thing about the Torture Bill the Republicans just passed is the fact that the President, by his say-so alone, can declare American citizens enemy combatants, and lock them away permanently without the right to challenge their detention even once. For those not in the know, that's called Habeus Corpus, and it's been a foundation of our justice system since the Magna freaking Carta. That's 800 years of tradition that has suddenly become "quaint."

From the LA Times:

The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States....It also allows him to seize anybody who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." This grants the president enormous power over citizens and legal residents. They can be designated as enemy combatants if they have contributed money to a Middle Eastern charity, and they can be held indefinitely in a military prison.

Not to worry, say the bill's defenders. The president can't detain somebody who has given money innocently, just those who contributed to terrorists on purpose.

But other provisions of the bill call even this limitation into question. What is worse, if the federal courts support the president's initial detention decision, ordinary Americans would be required to defend themselves before a military tribunal without the constitutional guarantees provided in criminal trials.

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