WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN HABEUS CORPUS….Via Jack Balkin, Newsweek is running an excerpt from a new book by Steven Brill about how America reacted to 9/11. It only took six days for John Ashcroft to respond:
By that evening [House Judiciary Chairman James] Sensenbrenner, still in Wisconsin, was sitting on his porch reading a faxed draft of an entire 100-plus-page piece of legislation. Sensenbrenner, marking up the document furiously, was astounded. Ashcroft and his people had written the magna carta of federal agents, freeing them to wiretap, search, arrest, and hold almost at will, with little judicial oversight.
Most shocking was that the bill suspended what was known in the law as habeas corpus?which gave anyone detained on American soil the right to demand a court hearing to challenge the authority of those holding them. Lincoln had suspended habeas corpus for a time during the Civil War. Now Ashcroft was proposing that it just plain be eliminated during this undefined emergency that had no designated end date. What was going on at Justice, the conservative Republican from Wisconsin wondered. (Ashcroft says he cannot “reconstruct with any accuracy” whether the suspension of habeas corpus was proposed. Sensenbrenner’s recollection, as well as that of two White House officials who saw the draft, seems credible.)
A lot of civil libertarians ? including me ? reluctantly concluded during the Clinton administration that Democrats weren’t really much better on civil liberties issues than Republicans. But revelations like this have got to change your mind. Yeah, Clinton signed some bad bills (related to FISA, wiretaps, internet censorship, etc.) but I can’t imagine any Democrat proposing a bill like this one even after a shock like 9/11. As Jack says:
The President should fire this man immediately and replace him with someone who genuinely cares about our Constitution and our civil rights. The only problem is, President Bush probably agrees with him, for he has, if anything, even less interest in these issues.
Sad but true.