As American citizens we used to have the right to know why we were in jail, the right to hear what the government was charging us with, and the right to have an attorney. Those are in our constitution. But now they are gone. To read how and why, read this column by Glenn Greenwald. The most important part is this:

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is, without question, the single worst law enacted during the Bush presidency, and is one of the most destructive laws passed in the last several decades. It is not merely a bad law. It vests in the President the power to detain people indefinitely with no meaningful opportunity to contest the government’s accusations. That is the very power the Founders sought first and foremost to prohibit.

More significantly, whether a country permits its political leaders to imprison people arbitrarily and with no process is one of the few defining attributes dividing free and civilized countries from lawless tyrannies. Or, as Thomas Jefferson put it in his 1789 letter to Thomas Paine: “I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” To vest the President with the power to imprison people indefinitely with no charges is fundamentally to transform the type of country we are.

These rights are all part of habeas corpus, which is defined as

Habeas Corpus

( n) Habeas Corpus is the Court order directing the law enforcement authorities to produce a prisoner supposed to be in custody of them, in the designated court , in person. The Latin word means ‘you have the body’ means the physical presence of the person before the court.

Or, From Merriam Webster (look at the 2nd definition):

habeas corpus

Main Entry: ha·be·as cor·pus
Pronunciation: ‘hA-bE-&s-’kor-p&s
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Medieval Latin, literally, you should have the body (the opening words of the writ)
1 : any of several common-law writs issued to bring a party before a court or judge; especially : HABEAS CORPUS AD SUBJICIENDUM
2 : the right of a citizen to obtain a writ of habeas corpus as a protection against illegal imprisonment

Right now the problem is that the Bush Administration has taken away these rights with the Patriot Act, the Military Conditions Act and the rendition programs and the use of Guantánamo. Prior to those, habeas corpus “has been a revered piller of western legal philosophy and an ethical imperative as a civil right since the Magna Carta.”

From Why Habeas Review Matters:

Of all of the legal protections that we hold as American ideals and as examples to other nations as embodied in our Bill of Rights, the right of habeas corpus is the only civil liberty to be held so important by the Founders that it was included in the Constitution itself. This week, the United States Senate voted to restrict that right of petition for grievance.

A right to challenge being held by the government for improper reasons is at the heart of our democracy — where such right was established to secure our rights to liberty and freedom, and to stop imprisonment of opposition candidates for political reasons.

The right of habeas corpus is our firewall against the tyranny of the majority — it dates back to the Magna Carta, which bound the king to the rule of law. To threaten habeas corpus protections tears at the very fabric of rights in this nation.”…

The Constitution is not a document of convenience. It is what we strive toward in this nation in terms of legal freedoms and rights, and to so blithely cast its principles aside for political expediency in the short term moment is shameful.

Further, our nation was founded on the principle that “all men are created equal.” Each time we take a step away from that, we cheapen that ideal, and we trample on the sacrifices made by so many at the birth of this nation who paid dear with their lives so that their children, and their children’s children, might live in a nation that held up the idea of liberty and freedom from tyranny as a beacon to the whole of the world.

To say that an enemy combatant is less deserving of the protections afforded our citizens because he or she is not from this nation is morally wrong, let alone legally questionable under our treaty obligations.

From Keith Olbermann, via Crooks & Liars:

In fact, Countdown has obtained a partially redacted copy of a colonial “declaration” indicating that back then, “depriving us of Trial by Jury” was actually considered sufficient cause to start a War of Independence, based on the then-fashionable idea that “liberty” was an unalienable right.Today, thanks to modern, post-9/11 thinking, those rights are now fully alienable.

The reality is, without habeas corpus, a lot of other rights lose their meaning.According to Firedoglake, “House Armed Services Committee was considering adding a provision to the Defense Department Authorization Bill being marked up in committee today and Thursday” and they need our phone calls to help save our rights.

Please call and tell them that you want habeas corpus restored — completely and fully — and that we elected them to a majority in Congress to do the tough work, not to sit back and keep their powder dry.

You can call the toll-free switchboard, or else the direct numbers:

1 (800) 828 – 0498
1 (800) 459 – 1887
1 (800) 614 – 2803
1 (866) 340 – 9281
1 (866) 338 – 1015
1 (877) 851 – 6437

Leadership
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (202) 225-4965
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, (202) 225-4131

Armed Services Committee Democrats
Ike Skelton, Missouri, Chairman, 202-225-2876
John Spratt, South Carolina, 202-225-5501
Solomon P. Ortiz, Texas, (202) 225-7742
Gene Taylor, Mississippi, 202 225-5772
Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii, (202) 225-2726
Marty Meehan, Massachusetts, (202) 225-3411
Silvestre Reyes, Texas, (202) 225-4831
Vic Snyder, Arkansas, 202-225-2506
Adam Smith, Washington, (202) 225-8901
Loretta Sanchez, California, 202-225-5859
Mike McIntyre, North Carolina, (202) 225-2731
Ellen O. Tauscher, California, (202) 225-1880
Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4731
Robert Andrews, New Jersey, 202-225-6501
Susan A. Davis, California, (202) 225-2040
Rick Larsen, Washington, (202) 225-2605
Jim Cooper, Tennessee, 202-225-4311
Jim Marshall, Georgia, (202) 225-6531
Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam, (202) 225-1188
Mark Udall, Colorado, (202) 225-2161
Dan Boren, Oklahoma, (202) 225-2701
Brad Ellsworth, Indiana, (202) 225-4636
Nancy Boyda, Kansas, (202) 225-6601
Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4276
Hank Johnson, Georgia, (202) 225-1605
Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire,(202) 225-5456
Joe Courtney, Connecticut, (202) 225-2076
David Loebsack, Iowa, 202.225.6576
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York, (202) 225-5614
Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-2011
Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona, (202) 225-2542
Elijah Cummings, Maryland, (202) 225-4741
Kendrick Meek, Florida, 202-225-4506
Kathy Castor, Florida, (202)225-3376

Also from Firedoglake,

The full list of Armed Services Committee members can be found here. Feel free to call the Republican members of the Committee, too — even though some of the Republican leadership on the Hill may have difficulty understanding the phrase “rule of law” or why it is important. (H/T to Nell for the link on that one.) More on the need for restoration of habeas from the NYTimes.

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