|David Edwards and Muriel Kane |
Published: Friday June 8, 2007
Keith Olbermann reported Thursday on the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, calling it "a historical restoration project, the reconstruction of one of the cornerstones of American democracy."
The Military Commissions Act, passed last year by the Republican Congress, stripped away the fundamental Constitutional right of habeas corpus. Now the Senate Judiciary Committee, in voting for the Restoration Act, has taken the first step in restoring it. Olbermann asked constitutional law scholar Jonathan Turley about the argument by supporters of the Military Commissions Act that habeas corpus has been suspended before in times of war without destroying the Republic.
Turley responded to that argument in three different ways, saying first that the nation's survival of previous suspensions of habeas corpus "says more about the Republic than the actions of the earlier presidents. This is a system of government that was designed to be idiot-proof -- and God knows we've tested that through the years. ... This was one of the most disgraceful moments of the last Congress, and it will be equally disgraceful to see many Republicans vote to fight the effort to bring back the Great Writ."
Turley went on to explain that habeas corpus is not a dangerous luxury or some sort of lawyer's trick to get crooks out of jail, but "is actually the foundation for all other rights. When the government throws you into a dungeon for what you say or who you pray to, it's habeas corpus that's the right that allows you to see the enforcement of the other rights."
Finally, Turley emphasized that suspending habeas corpus has actually made us less safe: "The greatest irony of the Bush administration is that his legacy will be to show the dangers of walking away from those rights that define us. We're very much alone today. ... We're viewed as a rogue nation. And it is a dangerous world to live in when you're alone."
The video from MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, broadcast on June 7, is at the link contained in the title.