President Bush currently has the power to declare anyone he wants, including U.S. citizens, to be an “enemy combatant” — and imprison them indefinitely without access to our court system – and without any explanation for their imprisonment.
The Senate is set to vote this week on whether or not to restore habeas corpus — the fundamental constitutional right that allows citizens to challenge the lawfulness of their imprisonment.
Last September, Congress shamefully passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) — which codified the suspension of habeas corpus rights, and allowed the government to continue holding prisoners at Guantanamo (and other secret sites) indefinitely with no access to a fair hearing in court.
Indefinite imprisonment without judicial review is unconstitutional — and fundamentally un-American. It’s a hallmark of fascist dictatorships, not constitutional democracies like ours.
Fortunately, there is movement in Congress to restore this fundamental constitutional right. This Monday, September 14th, the Senate is expected to resume debate on the Department of Defense Authorization bill and vote on S.185, the Specter-Leahy amendment to restore habeas corpus. This will be the first full up-or-down vote in Congress on restoring habeas corpus, and could give Guantanamo prisoners the long-denied right to independent review of their detention.
If our moral standing in the world community is ever to be restored, this bill is a very good first step.
(Action sponsored by Act for Change / Working Assets)