September 28, 2006: the day our country died.

Today the Senate passed S3930, which legalizes many forms of torture and gives the government the right to detain anyone who is suspected of terrorism indefinitely. The highlights– or rather lowlights– of the bill include no less than the following horrors:

  • The Geneva Conventions will be re-defined by the President, allowing him to specify different methods of torture as permissible during interrogation. Moreover, his definitions can be kept secret.
  • The definition of an enemy combatant has been expanded to include American citizens, and allow anyone declared as such to be imprisoned immediately and indefinitely without appeal.
  • Judicial review of terrorism cases will be prohibited. Appeals of violations of the Geneva Conventions will be denied.
  • Evidence given under coercion (read “torture”) will be permissible in court. This is even retroactive to past actions taken by the government.
  • Secret evidence will be permitted. People accused by the government (and lucky enough to have a trial at all) can be condemned on evidence they aren’t allowed to see.
  • Torture has been redefined to include anything that produces pain less than that of “total organ failure”. This includes waterboarding, exposure, personal indignity, and even rape.
  • The whole idea of habeas corpus— the right to challenge imprisonment– has been suspended for those accused of terrorist activity.
  • All of these things– every one of them— are direct contradictions of existing American law. They completely revoke many of the rights citizens of this country have had since its founding, and in fact redefine the legal system in a way that’s comparable to the days prior to the Magna Carta (which codified, for the first time, the right to a fair trial). Even the Alien and Sedition Acts pale in comparison to the sweeping oppression seen here. This is, in a word, tyranny. We now live in a place where the government can imprison anyone for as long as they want– without even having to provide a reason.

    The Constitution itself says this:

    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.

    Our country is not in rebellion (yet)– the only time in our nation’s history when habeas corpus was suspended was during the Civil War, when there was open rebellion, and President Lincoln decided it was necessary to do so. It is a great stretch to believe we are being “invaded” or that the public safety, in general, is being threatened to such an extent that a measure of such magnitude is the only option.

    Supreme Court Justice Scalia is on record as saying:

    The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive.

    Indeed, we have now abandoned that… we have discarded the “very core of liberty” in the name of an impossible war being fought against an ideology.

    It’s difficult for me to express my outrage and, indeed, profound sadness at this monumental injustice. In a single day we have gone from a nation where freedom and justice for all were fundamental rights– as stated in the closing phrase of the Pledge of Allegiance– to a nation where the irrational fear of terrorists has driven our lawmakers to the extreme and convinced them that a fair trial has no place in our system of law.

    If there was ever any question about whether the terrorists have won, this is the answer. They have won in an unprecedented way. They have caused our country to abandon its most basic principles.

    America as we have known it is dead.