Checks and balances.
These are exhilarating days for Americans who believe the constitutional checks and balances prescribed by the Founding Fathers must eventually restore this nation's commitment to the rule of law.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling that the Geneva Convention applies to detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the Bush administration has acknowledged, albeit grudgingly, that detainees in the war on terror are covered by the Geneva Convention.
The White House has withdrawn a 2002 presidential order stating that the convention did not apply to the detainees. Meanwhile, the Pentagon distributed a memo urging that military directives and regulations be reviewed to ensure they comply with Common Article 3 of the convention, which bans "humiliating and degrading treatment" of prisoners.
The court's ruling also has forced Congress to finally fulfill its constitutionally mandated oversight role over the administration's conduct of the war on terror. On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee began hearings on how to bring military prisons back under the rule of law and create military tribunals for suspected terrorists that satisfy the requirements of the Geneva rules.
If anyone needs further evidence that this nation's system of checks and balances is still functioning, there is also the deal negotiated between the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to submit the administration's warrantless surveillance program to a court for review.
It remains to be seen whether that deal is a good idea. But it marks a welcome reversal of the administration's brazen position that the executive branch has the wartime authority to conduct surveillance without the approval of the courts.
There are plenty of bumps that lie in the road ahead. But recent events suggest our constitutional system of checks and balances is fully capable of navigating them.
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|Title Annotation:||Editorials; Recent events show they're alive and well|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jul 16, 2006|
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