Saturday, January 20, 2007

"Habeas Corpus, Schmabeas Schmorpus!"

I just saw this on Crooks & Liars and I'm just speechless (well, almost). It is an excerpt of an independent transcript of an exchange between your Attorney General of the United States of America, Alberto "V05" Gonzalez and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) on the writ of habeas corpus in US law. Get a load of this:

Specter: Now wait a minute, wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in the case of invasion or rebellion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus?

Gonzales: I meant by that comment that the Constitution doesn't say that every individual in the United States or every citizen has or is assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says that the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.

As pointed out on C&L, Article 9, Clause 2 of the US Constition does read as follows:

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

Still, VO5's argument is unfathomable. If the government can, without due process, reserve the right to suspend a constitutional protection on an "individual" basis, as he argues here, then there is no constitutional protection to begin with. The constitution wouldn't be worth the paper it's written on. It is impossible to argue that this position is not an inherent suspension of the writ. The writ was written for the very purpose of protecting individuals!

Again, this is the Attorney General of the United States talking. This is the man in charge of the FBI, the US Marshall Service, the DEA, the ATF and every other federal law enforcement agency. When that guy doesn't believe American citizens are constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus protections that's a problem.

Think Progess has more on this.

God help us all.

UPDATE: The video is now up on YouTube. I've placed in the original post above.