This came with the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (S.3930).
According to Gita Gutierrez of the Center for Constitutional Rights, this act will, “…Strip Guantanamo Bay detainees of the right to "habeas corpus. Our government is poised -- our legislators are poised -- to strip this fundamental right from almost 450 men in Guantanamo."
Habeas corpus (Latin for "you have the body,") is a writ of law filed by a prisoner challenging the right of the legal authorities to continue his or her detention. If a judge finds merit in the arguments made in a habeas corpus writ, the government must prove that it has the legal authority to continue the imprisonment. It appears that habeas corpus may well have preceded the Magna Carta (1215). Habeas corpus is such a fundamental right that it was written into the Constitution of the United States.
The legislation states that, "Any individual determined by or under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense ... to be part of or affiliated with a force or organization (including al Qaeda, the Taliban, any international terrorist organization, or associated forces) that is engaged in hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents in violation of the law of war" as an "unlawful enemy combatant" subject to a military tribunal rather than civilian criminal courts.”
Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director stated his opposition as follows:
"With his signature, President Bush enacts a law that is both unconstitutional and un-American. This president will be remembered as the one who undercut the hallmark of habeas in the name of the war on terror. Nothing separates America more from our enemies than our commitment to fairness and the rule of law, but the bill signed today is an historic break because it turns Guantánamo Bay and other U.S. facilities into legal no-man's-lands.
"The president can now - with the approval of Congress - indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions. Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act."
Christopher Anders, ACLU Legislative Counsel, expressed his dismay in the following way, "Nothing could be less American than a government that can indefinitely hold people in secret torture cells, take away their protections against horrific and cruel abuse, put them on trial based on evidence they cannot see, sentence them to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and then slam shut the courthouse door for any habeas petition," said Christopher Anders, an. "But that's exactly what Congress just approved."
If the people of this country remain docile, and do not take the opportunity afforded them in the mid-term elections to unseat many of the scoundrels who now take residence in the Congress of the United States, this country may very well plunge headlong into a dark and dismal future. We may find ourselves in such a future where an unchecked imperial presidency becomes the norm along with a Congress that is beholding to corporate interests and where the sophisticated machinery of propaganda is used to convince average citizens that we are in state of unabated and perpetual war with the enemy of the moment. Such a society would be strangely reminiscent of what George Orwell predicted in his novel, 1984.
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