McCain’s Long History Of Opposing Habeas Corpus

Today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized to the Supreme Court’s ruling granting Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to challenge their detention in civilian courts:

It obviously concerns me. These are unlawful combatants. They are not American citizens. We should pay attention to Justice Roberts. It is a decision the Supreme Court has made and now we need to move forward. As you know, I always favored the closing of Guantanamo Bay, and I still think we ought to do that.

McCain’s statement mirrored remarks by President Bush, who said, “I strongly agree with those who dissented.” Watch reactions from McCain and Bush:

McCain’s desire to close Guantanamo Bay and his dislike of torture have nothing to do with this case. When it comes to upholding the rights of detainees, McCain has a long history of opposing them:

— In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled in Rasul v. Bush that the Bush administration had no jurisdiction to strip habeas corpus rights from detainees. In 2005, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced legislation overturning this decision and thus stripping detainees of their rights. McCain voted for the bill, which passed 49-42.

— The Military Commissions Act of 2006 denied anyone Bush labeled “an ‘illegal enemy combatant’ the ancient right to challenge his imprisonment in court.” McCain weakly pushed to strengthen the torture restrictions in the legislation, but ignored the lack of habeas rights. In the end, he voted for the Military Commissions Act.

— In 2007, Senate conservatives successfully filibustered legislation that would have “given military detainees the right to protest their detention in federal court.” In a 56-43 vote, the chamber fell just four shy of the 60 needed to cut off debate and proceed with the bill. McCain was part of the conservative filibuster and voted against moving forward with the legislation.

Today, the McCain campaign blog also approvingly cited Justice Antonin Scalia’s exceptionally extreme rhetoric on the consequences of the decision.


Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) response is here.

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