Water Man Spouts

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Regarding Habeas Corpus

{1} ``Habeas corpus has little to do with terrorism. Nothing in our present circumstances requires the suspension of habeas corpus. We are dealing with a fundamental provision of law (which) is at the very foundation of the legal system designed to safeguard our liberties. We are putting in jeopardy a tradition of protection of individual rights by federal courts that goes back to our earliest foundation.'' –Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) April, 1996

In 1996, President Bill Clinton worked with republican allies in Congress to pass The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. Democratic elder statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan spoke out strongly against the parts of the law that eroded the Great Writ of habeas corpus. He was joined by four former Attorney Generals – two democrats and two republicans – who recognized that the law would have little if any impact on "terrorism," and was instead a dangerous attack on the Constitution of the United States.

{2} "Here we are trivializing this treasure, putting in jeopardy a tradition of protection of individual rights by Federal courts that goes back to our earliest foundation. And the virus will spread. Why are we in such a rush to amend our Constitution? Why do we tamper with provisions as profound to our traditions and liberty as habeas corpus?

"The Federal courts do not complain. It may be that because we have enacted this, there will be some prisoners who are executed sooner than they otherwise would have been. You may take satisfaction in that or not, as you choose, but we have begun to weaken a tenet of justice at the very base of our liberties. The virus will spread.

"This is new. It is profoundly disturbing. It is terribly dangerous. If I may have the presumption to join in the judgment of four Attorneys General, Mr. Civiletti, Mr. Levi, Mr. Katzenbach, and Mr. Richardson...this matter is unconstitutional and should be repealed from law." –Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan; 1966

Senator Moynihan recognized the law, which he correctly called a "virus," would spread and infect other areas of our society. Events during the Bush-Cheney administration show that he was on target.

It is important to remember that the damage that Bush & Cheney have done was made possible by President Clinton’s and his republican allies’ efforts in 1996.

{3} "In 1996 we enacted a statute which holds that constitutional protections do not exist unless they have been unreasonably violated, an idea that would have confounded the framers. Thus, we have introduced a virus that will surely spread throughout our system of laws." –Daniel Patrick Moynihan; January 19, 1999

In 1999, Senator Moynihan introduced a bill to repeal the offending parts of President Clinton’s attack on habeas corpus. The bill "died" in committee.

Today, there are concerns about the further attacks on the Constitution, made by the current administration. Both Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama have spoken about reversing the damage done by this administration. It is important for democrats at the grass roots level to examine both candidates, to see which one has a history of working to insure the American people of their Constitutional rights.

{4} "A society should not be judged by how it treats its outstanding citizens, by bu how it treats its criminals." – Fydor Dostoevsky

As a state senator, Barack Obama has a documented history on issues relating to defendants’ rights in capital cases. He sponsored a bill that mandated the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in such cases. This was a result of concerns regarding errors in death penalty cases. His position is that no innocent person be wrongly convicted, or that no guilty person avoid conviction, due to an error in process.

Senator Clinton’s position on the issues relating to the Great Writ are less clear. Although I support Barack Obama, I must say that I have always thought Hillary Clinton is more liberal than her husband. We know that she has said she would work to undo the damage that President Bush has done to habeas corpus. But would she be willing to revisit Senator Moynihan’s efforts to undo the damage that President Clinton did?

This is the type of question that many of us would like to see the media ask of both Clinton and Obama.

1 Comments:

At May 11, 2008 at 2:16 PM, Blogger J said...

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