Yesterday the House approved the Bush administration supported Detainee Bill which sets standards for prosecuting alleged “unlawful enemy combatants”. Debate began on this topic back in June after the Supreme Court struck down the military commissions Bush had established to try people suspected of being members of al-Qaeda.
The main problem with the bill that was passed by the House and the bill currently being debated in the Senate is that these bills miss the point, that being that both versions strip away the fundamental right to habeas corpus, the right to challenge your detention in a court of law.
The bill also does not clearly define the term “unlawful enemy combatant” and therefore under the language of the bill any U.S. citizen could have their right to habeas corpus stripped from them so long as the executive branch labels you an “unlawful enemy combatant”. Here is what the bill states:
"(2) Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1005(c) of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien detained by the United States who --
(A) is currently in United States custody; and
(B) has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination." (p. 82)"
However Sen. Specter and Sen. Levin have introduced an amendment to the Senate version of the bill which would grant habeas corpus rights to detainees.
If the Specter-Levin Amendment is not included in the Senate version of this bill then Democrats must stand up and stop this bill through any means necessary.
The problem is, as the Congressional Quarterly reported yesterday, that Democrats are not planning any organized effort to filibuster the controversial military commissions and detainee treatment bill even though many do not agree with some of the specifics in the legislation. Democratic aides say they did not want to give Republicans an opportunity to paint them into a corner ahead of the November elections. One senior Democratic aide said “We’re going to do what we can to limit the amount of daylight between us and them on national security issues in order to neutralize this as a political issue.”
I find the argument that is being made by Democrats to be completely spineless and yet ironic. For years now the Democrats have been making the argument that Republicans are playing politics concerning matters of our national security and constitutional rights, yet when the time comes for them to finally stand up and protect one of America’s most basic constitutional freedoms they are refusing to do so because it is an election year. It basically just demonstrates exactly what is wrong with our two party political system, that being that neither party cares about doing what is right, they only care about maintaining power or gaining more power, and frankly it is pathetic.
I am making the argument that a filibuster is completely necessary, and the perfect person to do so would be Sen. Dayton. He is not seeking a second term and has no need to worry about any political repercussions for doing so. But alas I have almost as little faith in Dayton’s ability to stand up for what is right as I have faith in Senate Democrats actually growing a spine.
In the end I am sure this bill will pass and everyone will get back to campaigning, because getting elected or reelected is much more important then protecting basic American ideals of justice and fairness.
I think a recent editorial in the New York Times summarized the Democrat’s response perfectly: "Americans of the future won't remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration. They'll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation's version of the Alien and Sedition Acts."