Perhaps someone with more legal savvy than I can let me know for sure, but I’m thinking I’m right on my perceptions here.
As far as I can tell, the McCain Torture Act, which was passed last week by both the House and Senate with no substantial opposition, has given permission to George W. Bush to
- arrest me without a warrant, as long as he considers me to be an enemy combatant or even a material supporter of one
- throw me in a prison of his choosing, without the opportunity to call for legal counsel
- prevent me (or anyone) from knowing why I have been arrested (the 900-year-old right of habeas corpus, for those who are keeping track)
- use hearsay evidence or evidence extracted by “alternative examination techniques” against me, to present evidence seized without a warrant (even evidence gotten within the U.S.) and to prevent me or my lawyers (if I’m given one) from examining that evidence
- acquire evidence from me by “alternative examination techniques” that are not overseen by the Geneva Convention and are at bottom determined by George W. Bush
- keep me in prison without trial as long as he thinks is necessary without communication or representation
- prevent me from appealing to any court for relief, or any court from intervening
Please understand what I’m saying: the McCain Torture Act does not specify that these abrogations of U.S. and international law are to be applied only to suspected foreign terrorists, George W. Bush is free to arrest me. And you. And any other citizen of this nation. He has permission from Congress to do so.
And before I hear that whiny conservative rebuttal that nice people don’t have anything to fear, let me point out what they have missed: the McCain Torture Act empowers the President of the U.S. not to have to care about any of that. All he has to do is say you’re an enemy combatant or a supporter of one, and the rest of the machine falls into place. Even if you were innocent, you would never escape the machine: the guarantees of our Constitution no longer apply to you.
If someone can point out where in the McCain Torture Act that these acts are prohibited, I’d be glad to publish that here.
Last week, when I was invited to go meet a visiting Chinese delegation, I used the phrase habeas corpus in discussing current events, and my dinner partner asked if I were a lawyer, because I had used a legal term. The idea that an average citizen might know this term and what it meant did not occur to this citizen of the world’s largest authoritarian society.
Less than 24 hours later, the term ceased to have any real meaning in this society either. After all, as our President said about a year ago, the Constitution is “just a goddamned piece of paper.”