Foreign Terrorists Don’t Deserve Habeas Corpus

by John Hawkins | February 22, 2007 11:54 am

According to the New York Times, American Liberty (is) at the Precipice[1] because foreigners who want to kill Americans aren’t allowed to have a trial in an American court. Here’s the NYT reasoning, such as it is:

In another low moment for American justice, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that detainees held at the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, do not have the right to be heard in court. The ruling relied on a shameful law that President Bush stampeded through Congress last fall that gives dangerously short shrift to the Constitution.

The right of prisoners to challenge their confinement — habeas corpus — is enshrined in the Constitution and is central to American liberty. Congress and the Supreme Court should act quickly and forcefully to undo the grievous damage that last fall’s law — and this week’s ruling — have done to this basic freedom.

The Supreme Court ruled last year on the jerry-built system of military tribunals that the Bush Administration established to try the Guantánamo detainees, finding it illegal. Mr. Bush responded by driving through Congress the Military Commissions Act, which presumed to deny the right of habeas corpus to any noncitizen designated as an “enemy combatant.” This frightening law raises insurmountable obstacles for prisoners to challenge their detentions. And it gives the government the power to take away habeas rights from any noncitizen living in the United States who is unfortunate enough to be labeled an enemy combatant.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which rejected the detainees’ claims by a vote of 2 to 1, should have permitted the detainees to be heard in court — and it should have ruled that the law is unconstitutional.

As Judge Judith Rogers argued in a strong dissent, the Supreme Court has already rejected the argument that detainees do not have habeas rights because Guantánamo is located outside the United States. Judge Rogers also rightly noted that the Constitution limits the circumstances under which Congress can suspend habeas to “cases of Rebellion or invasion,” which is hardly the situation today. Moreover, she said, the act’s alternative provisions for review of cases are constitutionally inadequate. The Supreme Court should add this case to its docket right away and reverse it before this term ends.

Guess what? In WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, and for that matter, the Gulf War, enemy prisoners had no Habeas Corpus rights. They couldn’t challenge their detention in an American court, nor should they have been able to do so.

You don’t believe that? Well, look back to 1942 when 8 Nazi saboteurs were captured in the United States. They asked to be tried before a civilian court, it was denied, and then all 8 of them were tried before a military tribunal and then hung by the neck until dead. That should be a model for how we handle prisoners at Gitmo, especially the hanging by the neck until dead part. Every member of Al-Qaeda in our custody should eventually meet that fate.

As far as the impact of that on “American liberty” goes, it’s nada at worst, because they’re not Americans, and at best it’s positive because keeping these people locked up is saving American citizens from attack.

  1. American Liberty (is) at the Precipice:

Source URL: