It’s habeas corpus test time for Barack Obama. Does he recognize the validity of the ancient writ or not?
A right-leaning court has sided with the years-long detention-without-charge of non-enemy non-combatants. 17 Uighurs, captured as part of George W. Bush’s dragnet, and later determined by the Bush Administration not to be dangerous to anybody, are still imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. The court said that it’s okay to keep these people in prison, simply because the White House hasn’t wanted to release the prisoners in the United States, and hasn’t found a new home for them anywhere else.
These are not terrorists. They’ve never been charged with terrorism, and initial claims that they were linked with terrorism turned out not to be valid. In spite of what Donald Rumsfeld once said about them, these people are in no way “The worst of the worst.”
If Barack Obama keeps these people prisoner, he is accepting the Military Commissions Act’s claim that the President of the United States of America doesn’t have to comply with the requirements of habeas corpus. He is accepting the idea that the President doesn’t need to act with due process, and can snatch people up off the street with solid evidence, then punish people with prolonged imprisonment without a trial.
Sabin Willet, the lawyer for the 17 Uighur prisoners, describes Barack Obama’s position aptly: “You cannot duck this, President Obama. Are you for capturing people and hauling them around the globe and holding them in a prison forever without reason? Or, are you against it? Which is it?”
Barack Obama has offered plenty of flowery promises to uphold the Constitution, but so far he’s failed the practical tests. Obama has maintained the Big Brother spy network retroactively established under the FISA Amendments Act. Obama has expanded George W. Bush’s corrupt Office of Faith-Based Initiatives without establishing the safeguards to prevent discrimination as he promised he would. Obama has sent his lawyers to argue that the President has the power to stop lawsuits cold with the mere claim, backed up by no evidence, that state secrets are involved somehow in the suits.
The Uighurs present another basic test for President Obama. Will Obama continue to denigrate the Constitution, and support the idea that President is above the law?
It’s a test for Americans as well – will they tolerate abuse of the Constitution by Barack Obama? Will Americans allow the President to be above the law?