Today, the Senate is expected to decide whether to reinstate the fundamental right of habeas corpus (i.e., the right to force the government to justify a person’s punishment) that is set to be stripped from Guantanamo Bay detainees as a result of the passage of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) amendment last week.
The seriousness of suspending habeas corpus (a concept dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1297) is evidenced by its rarity in American history. Abraham Lincoln was the last president to take that step. His actions, despite coming in the midst of our nation’s only civil war, have “come to be seen as a blemish on an otherwise heroic record of wartime leadership.”
According to Knight Ridder, the Senate voted to approve the Graham amendment “after an hour of debate.” It says much about the value that Senate conservatives have for our basic rights that they would roll them back after virtually zero deliberation.