The bill, which Bush was forced to negotiate with a group of his fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate, would bar inmates at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from using habeas corpus petitions to have their imprisonment reviewed by a court.This, from Jared Goldstein, says the necessary:
Habeas corpus - Latin for "you have the body" - has been a linchpin of Anglo-American jurisprudence since it was first developed over 300 years ago in Britain.
Congress is now poised to do something it has never done before: Take away the right of prisoners to seek habeas corpus. Since long before the United States became a nation, the right to seek habeas corpus has guaranteed that anyone imprisoned by the government may ask a judge to determine whether he or she is properly imprisoned. The right to seek habeas corpus has applied to prisoners regardless of whether they are citizens or foreigners, and no matter how dangerous they are accused of being, or how horrible their alleged crimes.See also Nat Hentoff here (free registration) and this editorial in the LA Times.
The right to habeas corpus has been a basic part of English common law, and, later, American law, since the adoption of the Magna Carta, in 1215, which established that no one could be imprisoned on the mere say-so of the king.
The founders of the United States considered habeas corpus to be such a fundamental protection against tyranny that they enshrined it in the Constitution. Congress has expanded the right to seek habeas corpus several times, and it has never tried to take the right away. To do so now would turn our backs on our fundamental principles of justice.
The Bush administration has proposed revoking this fundamental right for the 450 or so foreigners held at Guantanamo. If Congress goes along, no limits will remain on the government's power to imprison people without evidence and without trial. Doubtlessly, the United States can and should lock up terrorists posing a threat to the nation - but it must do so within the bounds of law.
Our strength as a nation is demonstrated when we treat even our worst enemies within the rule of law.