and other reflections on Habeas Corpus, the cornerstone of free society currently under attack
featuring P. Sabin Willett in the Washington Post and Handy Fuse at Simply Appalling
By Winter Patriot on 11/15/2005, 2:51pm PT  

Guest blogged by Winter Patriot

Important words from P. Sabin Willett, from the Washington Post, Monday, November 14, 2005; A21. Emphasis added.

Detainees Deserve Court Trials

As the Senate prepared to vote Thursday to abolish the writ of habeas corpus, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl were railing about lawyers like me. Filing lawsuits on behalf of the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. Terrorists! Kyl must have said the word 30 times.

As I listened, I wished the senators could meet my client Adel.

Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

Willett's account of his client, Adel, appears to confirm a disquieting story, one of many which have appeared briefly and which would have been flushed down the memory hole if not for a few intrepid souls who have refused to let such stories disappear.

From the AP: Detainees Say They Were Sold

They fed them well. The Pakistani tribesmen slaughtered a sheep in honor of their guests, Arabs and Chinese Muslims famished from fleeing U.S. bombing in the Afghan mountains. But their hosts had ulterior motives: to sell them to the Americans, said the men who are now prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Bounties ranged from $3,000 to $25,000, the detainees testified during military tribunals, according to transcripts the U.S. government gave The Associated Press to comply with a Freedom of Information lawsuit.

A former CIA intelligence officer who helped lead the search for Osama bin Laden told AP the accounts sounded legitimate because U.S. allies regularly got money to help catch Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Gary Schroen said he took a suitcase of $3 million in cash into Afghanistan himself to help supply and win over warlords to fight for U.S. Special Forces.
...
[One] prisoner said he was on his way to Germany in 2001 when he was captured and sold for "a briefcase full of money" then flown to Afghanistan before being sent to Guantanamo.

"They knew Americans were looking for Arabs, so they captured Arabs and sold them --- just like someone catches a fish and sells it," he said. The detainee said he was seized by "mafia" operatives somewhere in Europe and sold to Americans because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time --- an Arab in a foreign country.

The Pentagon got taken, indeed. But so did Adel and many others like him. I suggest you read the entire article.

But I digress.

Here's Willett again, from Monday's WaPo:

Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist.
...
The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus in an ancient right; it predates our own Constitution by centuries. If a handful of corrupt politicians can take away habeas corpus, they can take away anything!

Willett draws an apt parallel and reaches a logical conclusion:

In a wiser past, we tried Nazi war criminals in the sunlight. Summing up for the prosecution at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson said that "the future will never have to ask, with misgiving: 'What could the Nazis have said in their favor?' History will know that whatever could be said, they were allowed to say... The extraordinary fairness of these hearings is an attribute of our strength."

The world has never doubted the judgment at Nuremberg. But no one will trust the work of these secret tribunals.

This is not a left-vs-right issue. The true conservatives among us are possibly more upset than the liberals. As Handy Fuse points out at Simply Appalling, the most eloquent and impassioned support of habeas corpus may be coming from the right. Handy quotes [and emphasizes] Paul Craig Roberts, a conservative of impeccable credentials, formerly of the Reagan administration:

Nothing more effectively undercuts the image that Bush paints of America as the land of freedom, liberty and democracy than the Republican Party's destruction of habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus is essential to political opposition and the rise and maintenance of democracy. Without habeas corpus, a government can simply detain its opponents. Nothing is more conducive to one party rule than the suspension of habeas corpus.

It is heartbreaking to watch the Republican Party overthrow the very foundation of democracy in the name of democracy. The name of Lindsey O. Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina, the sponsor of this evil legislation, will go down in infamy in the book of tyrants.

Handy Fuse then remarks:

It is time for people on the so-called American Left to pay attention to some of the conservatives in this country. Roberts is as alarmed by the direction taken by the Bush administration as any on the Left can claim. And, at least in the South, many ordinary voters who label themselves conservative really have a much more nuanced position, though they've been conned by the Republicans into adopting the conservative label. Liberals need to listen and connect wherever possible.

Echoes of a long-ago post from a nearly frozen blog:

I get annoyed when I hear the standard lefty jokes like "How can you tell when a conservative is lying?" because not all conservatives are lying whenever their mouths are moving. Some of them are honest patriots. We don't see eye to eye all the time but they are telling the truth as they see it, and they love this country as much as anyone on the left does. In my opinion, unless the lefty bloggers give them credit for this --- at the very least --- it's gonna be tough to get a broad-based coalition together. And that, after all, may be our only hope. So I continue the hunt for good old-fashioned honest conservatives. I know they're out there.

It's nice to see I'm not the only one thinking this way. Those who have been trying to divide us may be in for a surprise.

But I digress.

Here's a parting comment from Handy Fuse:

Graham's amendment could not have passed without the support of 5 Democratic Senators. They are—

* Joe Lieberman, Connecticut
* Kent Conrad, North Dakota
* Mary Landrieu, Louisiana
* Ben Nelson, Nebraska
* Ron Wyden, Oregon

These people are so overdue their retirement.

And here's a final word from P. Sabin Willett:

The secretary of defense chained Adel, took him to Cuba, imprisoned him and sends teams of lawyers to fight any effort to get his case heard. Now the Senate has voted to lock down his only hope, the courts, and to throw away the key forever. Before they do this, I have a last request on his behalf. I make it to the 49 senators who voted for this amendment.

I'm back in Cuba today, maybe for the last time. Come down and join me. Sen. Graham, Sen. Kyl --- come meet the sleepy-eyed young man with the shy smile and the gentle manner. Afterward, as you look up at the bright stars over Cuba, remembering what you've seen in Camp Echo, see whether the word "terrorist" comes quite so readily to your lips. See whether the urge to abolish judicial review rests easy on your mind, or whether your heart begins to ache, as mine does, for the country I thought I knew.