Protect Habeas Corpus

Article excerpt

Byline: The Register-Guard

Sen. Ron Wyden last week joined a handful of fellow Democrats and a busload of Republicans in passing an amendment sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., banning enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from asserting the right of habeas corpus.

Wyden's vote was out of character for an Oregon Democrat who has a well-deserved reputation as a civil liberties watchdog. The writ of habeas corpus is a bedrock principle of Anglo-American law that permits people held in custody to obtain judicial review of their status.

Wyden's vote stood in sharp contrast to that of Sen. Gordon Smith, the Oregon Republican who parted company with his party's leadership to oppose Graham's amendment. "Senator Smith thinks that before we go and reverse the Supreme Court decision and hundreds of years of precedent, we have to be very, very careful," explained John Easton, Smith's chief of staff. Amen. And amen.

Aides for Wyden said he supported Graham's amendment because it bolstered Senate oversight of Guantanamo and created a special tribunal that would determine whether detainees were being improperly confined. While Wyden didn't want Gitmo detainees clogging the courts with frivolous appeals, aides said he intended to support an amendment that would restore some of the lost habeas corpus rights.

Wyden did just that this week, voting along with Smith to help pass an amendment that would allow enemy combatants convicted by military tribunals to file appeals with the U. …