It seems that the Supreme Court may have taken this country another dangerous step closer to tyranny. Four of the former enemy combatants that were at one time held in Guantanmo Bay took their case to the Supreme Court to argue for their rights under a variety of different treaties and laws including the Constitution, Geneva Convention, the Alien Tort Statute.
One may assume that if these four men are now free, that they were more than likely not terrorists, and therefore, not enemy combatants.
It happened earlier this week, in a discreet ruling that attracted almost no notice and took little time. In fact, our most august defenders of the Constitution did not have to exert themselves in the slightest to eviscerate not merely 220 years of Constitutional jurisprudence but also centuries of agonizing effort to lift civilization a few inches out of the blood-soaked mire that is our common human legacy. They just had to write a single sentence.
Here’s how the bad deal went down. After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president’s fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a “suspected enemy combatant” by the president or his designated minions is no longer a “person.”Â They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever — save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials.
This extraordinary ruling occasioned none of those deep-delving “process stories” that glut the pages of the New York Times, where the minutiae of policy-making or political gaming is examined in highly-spun, microscopic detail doled out by self-interested insiders. Obviously, giving government the power to render whole classes of people “unpersons” was not an interesting subject for our media arbiters. It was news that wasn’t fit to print. Likewise, the ruling provoked no thundering editorials in the Washington Post, no savvy analysis from the high commentariat — and needless to say, no outrage whatsoever from all our fierce defenders of individual liberty on the Right.
This is certainly a complicated issue, and as I am not a Constitutional scholar, I’ll have to leave the debate to those who better understand the intricacies of the laws in question.
However, I must note again that the complainants are free men, which suggests that they were innocent of any wrong doing. They were held in a military prison against their will, were probably interrogated to the human breaking point, and were denied any legal rights whatsoever under any domestic US laws or international agreements.
The Supreme Court’s ruling that these men are considered “non-persons” void of any human rights whatsoever should scare every single American.
How long before Patriot Act and other anti-terrorism laws are expanded to include what some would deem lessor crimes? How long before something a blogger writes or a protester says becomes “hate speech” or “enemy speech,” and said writer or speaker is deemed an enemy combatant, or, by the new definition, a non-person? Couldn’t happen in America right?
We direct your attention to the Sedition Act of 1918.
President Woodrow Wilson was concerned that dissent, in time of war, was a significant threat to morale. The passing of this act forbade Americans to use “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the United States government, flag, or armed forces during war. The act also allowed the Postmaster General to deny mail delivery to dissenters of government policy during wartime.
Freedom of speech in the United States is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states in part: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or the press.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Sedition Act at the time it was in effect in Debs v. United States, but subsequent Supreme Court decisions (such as Brandenburg v. Ohio in 1969) make it unlikely that similar legislation would be considered constitutional today.
One can argue, that given the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling, similar legislation would probably be considered constitutional today!
Hat Tip Tom of the North for the reference links