Habeas Corpus and the Raping of the US Constitution
edited: Monday, September 22, 2003
By David M Ray
Posted: Saturday, September 20, 2003
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A long goodbye to Habeas Corpus
Thomas Jefferson was one of America’s finest patriots and also one of the primary shapers of our Constitution and the structure of our government. Many will be surprised to know that Jefferson was not even in America at that time of the writing of the Constitution, but served as minister to France during the entire time that it was written, debated, and ratified. As the author of the Declaration of Independence and one of the most outspoken in the American philosophy of freedom and liberty, Jefferson did not let the foundation document of our government pass without comment. Between 1787 and 1789, Jefferson and James Madison (the chief proponent of the Constitution and co-author of the Federalist Papers) exchanged correspondence regarding the Constitution. A look at one of Jefferson’s letters can be a priceless view of the mindset of one of the greatest patriots in American history. In a time when information travels at almost incomprehensible speeds and our legislative body seems to be in a race to see how many special interest groups it can isolate and “benefit”, such a view seems appropriate:
THOMAS JEFFERSON to James Madison, 20 December 1787
"...I like the organization of the government into Legislative, Judiciary and Executive. …There are other good things of less moment. I will now add what I do not like. First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land and not by the law of Nations...”
Look at that again. “The eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws”. Lincoln suspended it for the Civil War, and Congress has since shot so many loopholes through it that it now looks like target practice for a shotgun owners’ club. Laws such as the so-called Patriot Act (I and II), and Homeland Security (aka the National Socialist Acts I-III) have rendered this staple in our government neither eternal nor unremitting. Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution clearly states that “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended , unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion of the public Safety may require it.” This is where it gets a little complicated.
According to Webster’s dictionary, the definition of habeas corpus is as follows:A writ requiring a person to be brought before a judge or court, esp. for investigation of a restraint of the person’s liberty, used as a protection against illegal imprisonment. Basically, this means that the government cannot imprison a citizen unless they inform as to what exactly that citizen is being imprisoned for. Break a law, they catch you, then tell you what you did and arrest you. Even at this stage the citizen has the right to a “speedy trial” and is to be brought before a judge in court in a timely manner.
The first time habeas corpus was suspended was by Lincoln during the “Civil War”, which was not a Civil War or a rebellion, but a secession. It may seem like nitpicking, but the actual wording used is very important. The Constitution allows for the suspension of habeas corpus in instances of rebellion, which is defined in Webster’s as open, organized, and armed resistance to one’s government or ruler. The Confederacy did not rebel. They seceded. The various Confederate states simply decided to withdraw from the Union of the United States of America. The process by which this was done was legislative, not combative. Each state wrote a declaration of intent. Each member of Congress formally withdrew from the legislative body. Armed conflict occurred only after all of this took place, when the Union army threatened the newly seceded states. Disregard for a moment the politically charged topic of the right or wrong of the Southern states. We cannot, after all, legislate morality. That is for the citizens to find and express for themselves. The job of government is simply to ensure that the citizens can do this. By definition, the secessionist movement is not a rebellion, so the government does not have Constitutional grounds to suspend habeas corpus. “Who cares?” you say. “That’s ancient history and we all get along now” you say. That’s debatable. But the reason that this “ancient history” holds relevance for today can be found in some of our latest legislation. It seems our 21st century government has taken a cue from that of their predecessors and has used the same sort of subtle tactics to worm their way around the Constitution.
The second reason provided for the suspension of habeas corpus is when “the Invasion of the public Safety may require it”. Under the banner of the much-publicized “War on Terror”, our government has decided that our personal safety is being threatened and has legislated for itself power to suspend habeas corpus at will. No charges, no judge, no jury. The enemy is not a country, but “terrorists”. Terrorism is a problem that our country has had to deal with for some time. More importantly, it is something that is not likely to go away in the foreseeable future. This is a fact that all sides will agree upon. Using logic, we can then surmise that our new legislation authorizes the government to suspend habeas corpus at any time and for an indefinite period into the future. Like magic, the Constitution has now been side-stepped entirely. As with the Civil War, we have to disregard for a moment the ideas of “good” and “bad” and simply read the Constitution. The intent of the Founding Fathers is also to be taken into consideration (as any Federal judge will tell you).
The intent of the habeas corpus provision was to keep the government from obtaining the power to imprison citizens at will for no stated reason and with no presentable evidence, except for times of temporary emergency. Our government has made the emergency permanent, and in so doing, given themselves the virtually permanent ability to suspend this right at will. The PATRIOT Act does have sunset provisions dissolving this legislation after five years (which so-called “conservative” members of Congress are now trying to remove), but this realistically affects nothing. Our government has decided to try to use generality and vagueness to legislate our rights away. Even if these sunset provisions are not removed, the damage has been done. Our government now knows that the American people will stand for such blatant disregard for the Constitution in word and intent. Armed with this knowledge, they can be confident that any desired bypassing of the Constitution can be legislated into action with minimal complication with only the most vague of reasons.
Continuing to use logic then, we can surmise that our legislative body has become an enemy of the Constitution by its malicious contrivances, and therefore an enemy of the United States of America. Granted, such a comment sounds outlandish in the extreme, but that is what happens when logic is applied to illogical scenarios. What we are witnessing is not a temporary law designed to secure the freedom of its citizens, but an ever-increasing devolution of our free society into a state of tyranny. It is the law of entropy applied to government. Can it be stopped? In physics, entropy is an ongoing process that is unstoppable. Only time will tell if this eternal and unstoppable destructive process applies to the United States of America.