Over the past months, I have been dismayed, and then alarmed, by the continuing erosion of civil liberties in the United States. My recent op-ed noted that of the ten guaranteed freedoms granted by our Founders in the Bill of Rights, at least four have been regularly trampled (if not completely trashed) by the federal government in recent years. Here is one powerful example:
According to attorney Glenn Greenwald,
One of the first acts undertaken by the Obama DOJ that actually shocked civil libertarians was when, last February, as The New York Times put it, Obama lawyers “told a federal judge that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team.”
But last April, John Bates, the Bush-43-appointed, right-wing judge overseeing the case, rejected the Bush/Obama position and held that Boumediene applies to detainees picked up outside of Afghanistan and then shipped to Bagram. I reviewed that ruling here, in which Judge Bates explained that the Bagram detainees are “virtually identical to the detainees in Boumediene,” and that the Constitutional issue was exactly the same: namely, “the concern that the President could move detainees physically beyond the reach of the Constitution and detain them indefinitely.”
But the Obama administration was undeterred by this loss. They quickly appealed Judge Bates’ ruling. As the NYT put it about that appeal: “The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight.” Today, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals adopted the Bush/Obama position, holding that even detainees abducted outside of Afghanistan and then shipped to Bagram have no right to contest the legitimacy of their detention in a U.S. federal court, because Boumediene does not apply to prisons located within war zones (such as Afghanistan).
So congratulations to the United States and Barack Obama for winning the power to abduct people anywhere in the world and then imprison them for as long as they want with no judicial review of any kind…
Greenwald, in another article, reports that the new Coalition government in the UK has published its platform for the world to see. And it is chock full of promises to restore British civil liberties! Have a look at this amazing document. Under the “Civil Liberties” section it says:
“The Government believes the British state has become too authoritarian, and that over the past decade it has abused and eroded fundamental human freedoms and historic civil liberties.”
The UK government’s new platform promises to”roll back state intrusions,” “scrap the ID card scheme,” “outlaw the fingerprinting of children at school without parental permission,” “defen[d] trial by jury,” and establish a Commission to investigate the creation of a Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights… and protects and extends British liberties.”
Thank God for the sanity of our friends across the Pond. Maybe someday we will follow in their footsteps and restore the rights that our Constitution granted?
UPDATE May 27 from Raw Story: Britain Scrapping ID Program:
LONDON — The new coalition government is to scrap a national identity card scheme introduced by former prime minister Gordon Brown’s administration, it announced Thursday.
The scheme will be abolished within 100 days under legislation presented by Home Secretary Theresa May, the first bill to be introduced to parliament by Prime Minister David Cameron’s government. The expected new legislation “is the first step of many that this government is taking to reduce the control of the state over decent, law-abiding people and hand power back to them,” said Home Secretary May. “With swift parliamentary approval, we aim to consign identity cards and the intrusive ID card scheme to history within 100 days,” she said.