Jan 22, 2007

On Habeas Corpus and Alberto Gonzalez

US Constitution During Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made the startling claim there is no expressed right to habeas corpus in the U.S. Constitution. Gonzales was debating Sen. Arlen Specter about whether the Supreme Court’s ruling on Guantanamo detainees last year cited the constitutional right to habeas corpus.

Here are the exact words of Gonzalez, responding to Specter's questioning:

"[T]here is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away...I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn't say, "Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas." It doesn't say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by..."
A brief quote from Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution is in order:

The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.
To more clearly delineate the rights of defendants in criminal proceedings, the Sixth Amendement spells out these what the accused can expect in the United States:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
And, just in case they left something out, those paranoid early Americans in Philadelphia added an extra layer of protection against prosecutorial tyranny in the Ninth Amendment, reiterating that there are plenty of common law rights dating back to Magna Carta we enjoy:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
I would like to believe that the Attorney General attended the standard constitutional law classes that Harvard Law School requires to obtain a Juris Doctor, but - giving him the benefit of the doubt - perhaps he was sleeping off a hangover the day his professor covered habeas corpus. If this is the case, then Mr. Gonzalez should hit the books and enlighten himself.

But, unfortunately, I believe that the Attorney General is well-versed in constitutional law, and knows quite well what the Constituion says about habeas corpus. I see this as yet another sign that the Bush Administration simply believes that it has the power to supercede the supreme law of the land whenever said document is inconvenient.

And that, dear friends, is a scary thought.


Anonymous said...

Gonzalez is just the pit bull Bush uses to tear holes in the Constitution. Everybody should be very afraid of these people, not because they are Republicans, but because they want to shred the Constitution.

And don't forget the Second Amendment, Mike - it's the only Amendment that secures the rest of them!

microdot said...

Mike, yesterday I posted illustrations of the Gonzalez Bill of Rights and the Department of Homeland Security Approved Constitution "Lite" Version.

Bush hits his lowest approval rating ever on the evening of his State of the Union Address. This guy becomes much more dangerous now because he is capable of showing his contempt for the ungrateful nation and world by boldly following his insane impulses. These guys had big plans that didn't work out quite the way they envisioned and the sand is running out of the hour glass and each grain makes their course of action more fevered and dangerous.

historymike said...


Although I am not a gun fanatic, I agree in principle. It is my hope that we will never have to use our Second Amendment rights to overthrow tyranny, but I am cognizant that this is not out of the realm of possibilities.

historymike said...

Hat tip to Microdot, whose posts yesterday got me thinking about our AG and his unabashed attempt to deny the existence of habeas corpus rights.

Mark said...

My first reaction to reading this is, "Dear Lord, they actually thought of putting such a man on the U.S. Supreme Court?"

And then my second reaction was to remember that Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts are on the Court anyway, so I really shouldn't be surprised.

Hooda Thunkit said...

No difference than the d's stacking the court with liberal activist judges.

I just wish that they would find intelligent and level-headed judges instead of trying to our "d" or "r" each other.

They forget that the majority is somewhere near the middle of the political spectrum. . .

(except me, of course) ;-)

Comrade O'Brien said...

Attention Comrades,
We are currently working to educate Congress about what America will look like without Habeas Corpus.
Please visit http://ministryoflove.wordpress.com to learn about our creative protest of the MCA.