Habeas Corpus

HABEAS CORPUS….John McCain’s compromise with President Bush on detainee legislation may not have accomplished much, but it did contain at least a few worthwhile measures. Now, though, Republicans in Congress apparently want to water it down even more. The plan is to redefine “unlawful enemy combatant” from someone who is

engaged in hostilities against the United States

to someone who is

engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States

“Supported” is a pretty far-reaching term that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with actual combat. And while this vagueness would be disturbing enough by itself, it’s even worse than it seems because other provisions of the legislation prohibit someone accused of “supporting” hostilities from challenging their detention in U.S. courts ? even if the detainee is a U.S. citizen.

And the fate of this proposal? According to the Washington Post, Republican crypto-moderate Arlen Specter “assailed the provision as an unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus,” but is “unlikely to derail the compromise legislation over those objections.”

Well, sure. Why would a senior committee chairman actually do something substantive to back up a belief that pending legislation is an unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus? That’s hardly worth fighting over, is it?

POSTSCRIPT: And how about the Democrats? Will they fight this? We’ll have to wait and see, but their performance has been pretty uninspiring so far.