Agreeing on Defense, But Standing Firm on Habeus Corpus

The President signed two significant bills today - one I strongly support and one I oppose.  I'm happy to support the President when I think he's doing the right thing.  I'm sorry when I oppose him but I don't hesitate to do so when I think he's wrong.

President Bush urged and has now signed into law the FY 2007 National Defense Authorization Act that will ensure our men and women serving in harm's way will bring only the best in technology and equipment to the fight so they can complete their missions and come home safe.

He also signed a Military Commissions bill that I voted against.

The Great Writ of Habeas Corpus may be suspended only by an express act of Congress "when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it," under U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 9, clause 2.

Only four times before in our nation's history, twice during our Civil War and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, has the federal government suspended the right of  "habeas corpus," one of our Constitution's most fundamental rights.

It is important to understand that the writ of habeas corpus is not a "get out of jail free" card, but a crucial opportunity for a detained person to have a judge hear their case.  The Latin phrase "habeas corpus" means "you should have the body."  A writ of habeas corpus is a court order that a detainee be brought to a court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully.  Habeas corpus is a necessity to avoid wrongful deprivations of individual liberty.

Lt. Commander Charles Swift, Office of Chief Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions, U.S. Department of Defense, said in Senate testimony that the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in this new law exceeds its scope constitutionally.  For example, he pointed out that the Supreme Court invalidated a habeas suspension allowing a military commission to hold prisoners "more than eight months after the Pearl Harbor attack."

I am committed to protecting the civil rights guaranteed under our Constitution. That is why I voted against the Military Commissions law.

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