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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Habeas Corpus

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine: the Writ of Habeas Corpus. It has a funny name because, as a legal concept, it's at least seven hundred years old, but in 21st century America, it means that the federal government can't arrest and detain you indefinitely without charge and without giving you the opportunity to challenge your arrest.

However, George Bush is going to change all that. Sometime this week, Bush will sign the Military Commissions Act, which explicitly voids the writ of habeas corpus for non-citizens. And as Glenn Greenwald explains, the bill implicitly voids habeas corpus for citizens as well. So pretty soon, federal agents could arrest you, or your spouse, or your parents, your brothers, sisters, adult children, coworkers, etc. for nothing more than the suspicion of "purposefully and materially" supporting hostilities against the U.S. No warning. No attorney. No "one phone call" from jail to even let your family know where you are.

And all perfectly legal, thanks to John Kline and 252 other members of Congress.

(Look here for Coleen's position on the Military Commissions Act).

Habeas corpus does not exist to protect the guilty: it exists to protect the innocent who are wrongly accused. It's almost certain that if you or someone you know gets caught up in Bush's indefinite-detention and almost-torture scheme, it will happen by mistake. And thanks to John Kline, there will be absolutely nothing you can do about it. It doesn't take much for this administration to suspect someone of "purposefully and materially" working against the U.S. Authorities have already arrested a New York man who broadcasts a television station operated by Hezbollah. But the bigger problem is when authorities arrest someone completely by mistake.

This isn't hypothetical. It has happened roughly three dozen times that we know about. Khaled Masri, a German citizen, was abducted and interrogated in Afghanistan for five months on a "hunch" that he was a terrorist. The CIA has since acknowledged they were mistaken. Maher Arar, a man with dual Canadian-Syrian citizenship, was detained in New York in 2002, sent to Syria and tortured for a year before he was released. Murat Kurnaz spent more than four years at Guantanamo Bay, even though the U.S. knew he was innocent of any wrongdoing for at least three years of that time. Last fall, the Washington Post reported on at least six other Guantanamo detainees who were known to be innocent, a story which never would have been told were it not for habeas corpus.

Last week John Kline, along with almost all other congressional Republicans, made the statement that they trust the President to conduct the "war on terror" without making mistakes. This means they trust the winner of the 2008 election, and if you're not concerned about the possibility of a President McCain, you probably are concerned about the possibility of a President Dean. But more surprisingly, they made the statement that they trust George Bush to get it right, which is quite remarkable given Bush's record, not only on arresting and abusing innocents, but on a whole host of issues.

John Kline may be comfortable giving up habeas corpus for himself, but he also gave it away for you and everyone you know. He'll tell you it was necessary to make America safe. Are you feeling safer?

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