Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cue Lee Greenwood singing...

Can I just share with you guys how much I've been geeking out over the Guantanamo Bay Supreme Court ruling last week? Justice Kennedy has never been my favorite Justice (or least favorite), but reading his opinion on the Boumediene v. Bush case brought serious tears to my eyes (Yep, I know I'm a dork). While a lot of it is written in legalese mumbo jumbo that's hard to understand completely, these two paragraphs are clear and beautiful as can be:

"Officials charged with daily operational responsibility for our security may consider a judicial discourse on the history of the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 and like matters to be far removed from the Nation’s present, urgent concerns. Established legal doctrine, however, must be consulted for its teaching. Remote in time it may be; irrelevant to the present it is not. Security depends upon a sophisticated intelligence apparatus and the ability of our Armed Forces to act and to interdict. There are further considerations, however. Security subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom’s first principles. Chief among these are freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to the separation of powers. It is from these principles that the judicial authority to consider petitions for habeas corpus relief derives.

Our opinion does not undermine the Executive’s powers as Commander in Chief. On the contrary, the exercise of those powers is vindicated, not eroded, when confirmed by the Judicial Branch. Within the Constitution’s separation-of-powers structure, few exercises of judicial power are as legitimate or as necessary as the responsibility to hear challenges to the authority of the Executive to imprison a person. . . The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law."

Reading that statement makes me SO proud to be American. Yes, the world is crazy. Yes, there are "dangerous enemy combatants." But the framer's of our constitution were not dumb when they provided the privilege of habeas corpus. Even foreign criminals have a right to challenge the legality of their detention. It is truly one of the things that make our country different from many others.