Restoring Rights: Rep. Ron Paul Introduces Legislation to Protect Basic Rights like Habeas Corpus, to Prohibit Torture, and to Ban Arbitrary Kidnapping and Imprisonment by the Executive Branch

Article excerpt


If leading spokespersons of both the right and the left in America enthusiastically back passage of any piece of legislation, there should be headlines in the various elements of the mass media. Anything attracting that kind of bipartisan support must certainly be dramatically important--so weighty that all conscious Americans ought to examine it. Claiming to be among the "conscious," we hereby provide a serious look at H.R. 3835, the American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007. It was introduced in the House of Representatives by Texas Republican Ron Paul on October 15, 2007.

If enacted, H.R. 3835 would:

* repeal the 2006 Military Commissions Act that denies habeas corpus (the right to face criminal accusations in a court of law);

* ban confessions gained through torture or coercion;

* insist on adherence to the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to gain intelligence;

* challenge the president's practice of disregarding portions of laws with presidential "signing statements";

* ban torture and arbitrary kidnapping or imprisonment;

* protect journalists who receive information from the executive branch from prosecution for airing it "unless the publication would cause direct, immediate, and irreparable harm" to our national security; and

* put a stop to any use of secret evidence against any individual or organization.

In short, the act would cancel numerous executive branch attacks on the types of civil liberties that have uniquely marked our nation.

H.R. 3835 has earned support across our nation's political spectrum because the abuses addressed or alluded to in it have indeed been committed. If this type of extra-constitutional activity isn't stopped, and if the reigning powers in the executive branch aren't required to submit to traditional restraints, the United States could be transformed into a police state. Both aliens and U.S. citizens could find themselves targeted with no appeal to the rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights.

The Military Commissions Act (MCA), one of H.R. 3835's chief targets, became law late in 2006 after House approval by 250-170 followed a 65-34 vote in the Senate. President Bush eagerly signed it after having insisted it was necessary "as part of making sure that we do have the capacity to protect you," meaning the American people. He also said it was needed "to insure that those questioning terrorists can continue to do everything within the law to get information that can save American lives."


In what is surely its most fundamental--though far from its only --undermining of rights, MCA grants power to the president to suspend habeas corpus. Traceable to its inclusion in the Magna Carta of 1215 and frequently termed "The Great Writ," habeas corpus literally means "you have the body." It is a legal protection that allows any person to seek relief from unlawful detention of either himself or another. It is as basic a right as can be imagined. Using it prevents arbitrary and lawless action such as incarceration without any reason being given and denial of legal assistance if apprehended. And it applies not only to the citizens of this nation but to all persons dealt with by U.S. authorities.

The Founding Fathers understood the importance of habeas corpus. Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution states, "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 nation is not in rebellion and the kind of invasion envisioned by the men who wrote the Constitution has not occurred. Hence, there is no justification for suspending the privilege.

In its attack on habeas corpus, MCA states that "no court, justice or judge shall have jurisdiction to consider any claim or case of action, including an application for a writ of habeas corpus . …