Thursday, June 12, 2008

MCCAIN HELPED PASS UNCONSTITUTIONAL MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT; OBAMA OPPOSED IT


GLENN GREENWALD, SALON The Military Commissions Act of 2006 was -- and remains -- one of the great stains on our national political character. It was passed by a substantial majority in the Senate (65-34) with the support of every single Senate Republican (except Chafee) and 12 Senate Democrats. No filibuster was even attempted. It passed by a similar margin in the House, where 34 Democrats joined 219 Republicans to enact it. One of the most extraordinary quotes of the post-9/11 era came from GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, who said at the time that that the Military Commissions Act -- because it explicitly barred federal courts from hearing habeas corpus petitions brought by Guantanamo detainees -- "sets back basic rights by some 900 years" and was "patently unconstitutional on its face" -- and Specter then proceeded to vote for it.

The greatest victim of the 9/11 attack has been our core, defining constitutional liberties. Of all the powers seized by this administration in the name of keeping us safe, the power to imprison people indefinitely with no charges and no real process is the most pernicious.

Passage of the Military Commissions Act was spearheaded by John McCain, who was anointed by cowardly Senate Democrats to speak for them and negotiate with the White House. Once McCain blessed the Military Commissions Act, its passage was assured. Barack Obama voted against it, and once its passage appeared certain, Obama offered an amendment to limit it to five years. That amendment failed, rendering the MCA the law of the land without any time limits. . .

Three of the five Justices in the majority -- John Paul Stevens (age 88), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 75) and David Souter (age 68) -- are widely expected by court observers to retire or otherwise leave the Court in the first term of the next President. By contrast, the four judges who dissented -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Sam Alito -- are expected to stay right where they are for many years to come.

John McCain has identified Roberts and Alito as ideal justices of the type he would nominate, while Barack Obama has identified Stephen Breyer, David Souter and Ginsberg (all in the majority today). It's not hyperbole to say that, from Supreme Court appointments alone, our core constitutional protections could easily depend upon the outcome of the 2008 election.

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