The President of the American Bar Association, Michael S. Greco, released the following letter regarding the Graham Amendment, which would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas petitions filed by terror suspects detained in Guantanamo [previous posts here and here]:
The U.S. Senate last week adopted with no hearings and with little debate Senator Lindsey Graham's proposal to eliminate habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees, denying them access to federal courts. The American Bar Association urges the senators to reconsider and defeat that enormous change to our fundamental legal system.
Throughout our nation's history, starting with the defense by lawyer, later president, John Adams of Massachusetts, of the British soldiers who fired on patriots in the Boston Massacre, it has been our commitment to basic principles of justice, even for the most unpopular among us, that has allowed us to maintain the high moral ground in the world, the most strategically important territory for us to occupy as we struggle with the enemies of freedom.
Our influence in the world is directly affected by our actions with respect to those we detain. The prisoners in Guantanamo have been held there, largely incommunicado, for four years. That fact alone offends our heritage of due process and fairness. The writ of habeas corpus was developed precisely to prevent the prolonged detention of individuals without charge, by allowing those held to petition the federal courts. To eliminate the right of habeas corpus would be shocking to our nation.
As Senator Graham himself has stated repeatedly, in the battle against terrorism we cannot allow ourselves to become like the enemy. Adoption of his amendment would undermine the very principles that distinguish us from our enemies.
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