Last week the Republican Congress eliminated our guarantee of habeas corpus. No one seems to want to talk about it. I think mostly that's because Americans are terribly ignorant of just about anything that has to do with civics. I think this is very sad but not new.
Nobody wants to talk about it this week either,because we have a sex scandal unfolding before our eyes. And people love a sex scandal—I know I do!—far be it from me to turn my nose up at a good sex scandal. Even so, if you are reading this, it behoves you to understand EXACTLY what Congress did last week. Here is what Senator Patrick Leahy said on September 28 regarding the matter:
"Imagine you are a law-abiding, lawful, permanent resident, and in your spare time you do charitable fundraising for international relief agencies to lend a helping hand in disasters. You send money abroad to those in need. You are selective in the charities you support, but you do not discriminate on the grounds of religion. Then one day there is a knock on your door. The Government thinks that the Muslim charity you sent money to may be funneling money to terrorists and thinks you may be involved. And perhaps an overzealous neighbor who saw a group of Muslims come to your House has reported 'suspicious behavior.' You are brought in for questioning.
"Initially, you are not very worried. After all, this is America. You are innocent, and you have faith in American justice. You know your rights, and you say: I would like to talk to a lawyer. But no lawyer comes. Once again, since you know your rights, you refuse to answer any further questions. Then the interrogators get angry. Then comes solitary confinement, then fierce dogs, then freezing cold that induces hypothermia, then waterboarding, then threats of being sent to a country where you know you will be tortured, then Guantanamo. And then nothing, for years, for decades, for the rest of your life.
"That may sound like an experience from some oppressive and authoritarian regime, something that may have happened under the Taliban, something that Saddam Hussein might have ordered or something out of Kafka. There is a reason why that does not and cannot happen in America. It is because we have a protection called habeas corpus, or if you do not like the Latin phrase by which it has been known throughout our history, call it access to the independent Federal courts to review the authority and the legality by which the Government has taken and is holding someone in custody. It is a fundamental protection. It is woven into the fabric of our Nation."
But not any more, of course.