In a key vote on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Senate voted 51 to 48 against deleting from the bill a provision that rules out habeas corpus petitions for foreigners held in the war on terrorism. The writ of habeas corpus, which is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, allows people to challenge in court the legality of their detention, essentially meaning that they cannot be held indefinitely without charge or trial.Later in the article, we learned that Senator Sprecter
charged that by striking habeas corpus rights for terrorism suspects, the bill "would take our civilized society back some 900 years" to a time before the Magna Carta was adopted. He said this was "unthinkable."My fear is two-fold and quite simple. First, anything we do in terms of re-writing laws can come back to haunt us; other countries can do the same and then American citizens, including military members, will pay the price. Second, by legislating deconstruction of the Constitition, we begin to put our very society at risk. Today we strike habeas corpus for foreign nationals in Gitmo; tomorrow we kick habeas corpus for illegal aliens; and next week we remove habeas corpus for everybody else.
"What this entire controversy boils down to is whether Congress is going to legislate to deny a constitutional right which is explicit in the document of the Constitution itself and which has been applied to aliens by the Supreme Court of the United States," Specter said. If the bill passes without habeas corpus protections, it will be struck down by the high court, and "we'll be on this floor again rewriting the law," Specter predicted.
One step at a time, and we're careening down this hot slide.