In an AP story this morning (where it was hard to find) Judge James Robertson of the Federal District Court said “detainees (at Guantanamo Bay) can’t challenge their imprisonment in federal courts.” Originally, the judge said the prisoners could challenge their imprisonment in federal courts. Then Congress passed a law that said otherwise and for some reason, the judge must have actually read what Congress had passed.
How long the judge’s ruling will last is open to question. He is the same Clinton-appointed judge who ordered the government to change the style of U.S. currency. The Constitution is clear about the responsibility for designing money and it explicitly appointed another branch of the government to handle that duty. It goes to show that the Constitution is not an impediment to much judicial thinking, these days.
Coddling criminals and extending to aliens the same rights as citizens is a fairly recent battle that belongs in the land of the Liberal, not the land of the Constitution. But the handling of enemy combatants is not new.
When President Lincoln enacted his tough laws against northern citizens (most of whom happened to be in the opposite political party), he usurped the powers of Congress. Only Congress can suspend the right of Habeas Corpus, for instance—not a president. But Lincoln did it anyway. The question during the Civil War was not “Shall a President act in a tyrannical way towards citizens of another country (CSA)?” Rather, it was “Shall a president act in a tyrannical way toward the citizens of his own country?” Where was the Supreme Court during this period? Shamefully hiding under its collective desk. Meanwhile Lincoln had some 13,000 American civilians in the north tried by military tribunals and tossed into prison (Doubt what I say? Read your history books for this period.)
During the Civil War, most of Congress and the President were on the same side of the issues, so the President’s actions suited Congress. Jointly they raped the public and took away their rights as though American citizens were aliens. Now, during the Iraq war, many who are in Congress and on the federal bench are not on the same side as the President and therefore feel obliged to make sure enemy combatants are given the full rights of American citizens.
Why should enemy combatants have the same rights that American citizens have? Beats me. Not even the weird Supreme Court of the 1860’s could come up with that.
Habeas Corpus Abraham Lincoln Civil War Guanamo Bay