In the December 4 issue of the The New Yorker, KILLING HABEAS CORPUS Jeffrey Tobin writes of habeas corpus and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA):
... Specter who, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, after leading the fight to preserve habeas corpus, at the last moment voted for the Administration’s plan restricting it...
Specter went into negotiations with the White House and his own party, knowing that his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee was at stake. He caved.
...It is hard to believe that the Arlen Specter of the nineteen-eighties—the maverick who defied his party on an issue of the magnitude of the Bork nomination—would have considered yielding on a question as fundamental as habeas corpus ...
He destroyed the foundation of Anglo-American jurisprudence and took us back to the days of the Star Chamber Courts.
...Specter is hoping the courts will restore the rights of the detainees to bring habeas cases. “The bill was severable. It has a severability clause. And I think the courts will invalidate it,” he told me. “They’re not going to give up authority to decide habeas-corpus cases, not a chance.” Others are less sure.
When you look at Specter's record on all matters Constitutional in 2006, the man has no shame. He signaled all year that he was unprincipled and shallow.
As part of a series of posts this year on Specter and his failure to protect the Constitution of the United States, we wrote:
There is no doubt that this is inappropriate - Specter, (unauthorized wiretaps) did nothing regarding the illegal wiretaps.
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has solved the illegal Bush spying by selling out his country (no court authorized warrant). The wiretaps under the old program were made illegal, but Bush or a subsequent president could start a new warrantless search program.
Senator Arlen Specter (Rep-PA), true to form, sold out his nation and its people in orchestrating a so-called compromise with the Bush Administration (illegal wiretapping)...
Senator Arlen Specter's treason continues unabated as America moves towards a police state. Unlike President Bush, who openly flaunts his totalitarian proclivities, Specter is attempting to codify this incipient fascism. (July 19, 2006, habeas corpus.)
Here is what the bill really did:
- Legalization of the president's program of warrantless surveillance on Americans, a program that is illegal under current law and unconstitutional.
- A diminished role for the court that oversees the NSA's warrantless domestic spying, making oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) optional -- and we know that when this administration doesn't believe in getting court warrants even when required, making them "optional" is making them non-existent.
- A new, unconstitutional process for challenging surveillance, via a secret appeals court composed of judges hand-picked solely by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who supports expansive presidential powers.
- An information blackout by the Executive Branch against the Congress or our courts when it comes to the names and number of Americans monitored by the spying program. Without any oversight, countless journalists, lawyers, hotel clerks and others will inevitably be swept into round-the-clock monitoring of their phone conversations, indefinitely.
Remember the deal Specter made in 2004 with Senate Republicans to get the Judiciary Chairmanship? The "assurances" he made in private? It turns out Specter sold out the Constitution.
(Historical footnote: Specter is credited as the staffer of the Warren Commission that came up with the bizarre theory that a single bullet killed JFK and wounded John Connolly, despite the seemingly unforgiving laws of physics.)
UPDATE: At a Vermont post-election party last weekend, Senate Judiciary Chairman-to-be Patrick Leahy signaled that he will take the opposite tack from Specter:
He related a conversation where he was recently asked if President Bush should be "worried" that he was now to be Chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. The crowd started cheering.
"No, no" he said, calming the crowd, as if to be prepared for a softening of his rhetoric.
"No, he shouldn't be worried. He should be terrified."
And the room exploded.
Leahy went on to assure the crowd that, unlike "some in the administration," he'd "actually read the Constitution," and went on to promise that no judges nominated to the federal bench who would ignore that Constitution would ever get past his committee.