Gone but not forgotten

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2006-12-30

Gone but not forgotten: HABEAS CORPUS, THE U.S.BILL OF RIGHTS, THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS.

Image: trumpeter, tombstones.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006:

  • SUSPENDS THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, enshrined in law since 1215 A.D., i.e., the rights of any accused to test their arrest or detention in a court of law. Allows for the legal detention without charge of non-citizens, legal permanent residents, and anyone else, including U.S. citizens by designating a person as an "enemy combatant" or "unlawful enemy combatant."
  • STATES THAT PERSONS "WHO MATERIALLY SUPPORT" hostilities against the United States can be labeled and held as "unlawful enemy combatants." This might include someone who donated money or supported a charity on a disapproved list, or an organizer of an anti-war rally, or possibly an attorney seeking to defend such a person.
  • ALLOWS SUMMARY ARREST AND INDEFINITE DETENTION with no power for an arrestee to have legal review, except by military tribunal.
  • GIVES THE PRESIDENT OR HIS DESIGNEE SOLE AUTHORITY to decide what "cruel, degrading and inhuman" treatment is. It gives the president or his designee the power to unilaterally change the content of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the article dealing with the impermissibility of abusive interrogation -- an intrinsic part of the U.S. Code since the Second World War.
  • GRANTS IMPUNITY RETROACTIVELY to any U.S. officials who have tortured or ordered the torture of detainees before this law was enacted.
  • ENDS ANY AND ALL JUDICIAL REVIEW of detention of overseas enemy combatants, i.e., Guantanamo detainees, about the factual basis of their detentions -- in spite of the fact that bounties of up to $5,000 were offered during combat operations in Afghanistan for al-Quaida suspects. Thus, hundreds of people -- farmers, students, cooks, shepherds, some young teenagers -- and others accidentally swept up by those seeking bounties will never get a chance to show they are wrongly detained, and now can be locked up forever.

At the urging of the President, the majority in Congress passed this law and the president signed it on October 12th, 2006. This law will be ranked as our generation's version of the infamous U.S. Alien and Sedition Act -- or with the Nazi era Enabling Act in Germany in 1933 which took away, among other rights, the right of Habeas Corpus, legally ushering in the nightmare of the Third Reich.