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Confessions of Alberto Gonzales' dangerous mind.

Dating back to the Magna Charta, the Great Writ of Habeas Corpus has been recognized as one of the chief, if not the chief, safeguard in common law against the arbitrary imprisonment of citizens by a despot. The U.S. Constitution recognizes this right in Article 1, Section 9: "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."

In what has to be considered one of the most chilling examples to date of the Bush administration's callous and dangerous disregard for fundamental rights, on January 18 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted that U.S. citizens do not actually enjoy such protections. During testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales insisted in an exchange with Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), "there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away. But it's never been the case, and I'm not a Supreme ..." Senator Specter, to his credit, abruptly interrupted the attorney general's weasel-worded attempt to justify subversion of the long-recognized right.

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute," said the reportedly incredulous senator, according the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot. "The Constitution says you can't take it away, except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there's an invasion or rebellion?" To this, Gonzales replied: "I meant by that comment the Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States, or every citizen, is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas. It doesn't say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by ..." At this point, Specter broke in again. "You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General."

Fortunately, neither the attorney general nor the president himself has the ability to legally suspend habeas corpus. That power is vested solely in Congress and not in the presidency--though during the Civil War President Lincoln unconstitutionally suspended habeas corpus.
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Title Annotation:Inside Track
Publication:The New American
Date:Feb 19, 2007
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