Wednesday, October 04, 2006


John Yoo: Habeas Corpus COSTS TOO MUCH MONEY

Wed Oct 04, 2006 at 10:41:26 AM PDT

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." -- Wendell Phillips, (1811-1884), abolitionist, orator and columnist for The Liberator, in a speech before the Massachusetts Antislavery Society in 1852, according to The Dictionary of Quotations edited by Bergen Evans.

Habeas corpus proceedings... do impose a cost, it's not free." John Yoo, torture lawyer, on NPR's Morning Edition today.

This is actually the argument John Yoo gave for limiting the habeas corpus rights of detainees. There are literally hundreds (HUNDREDS!) of petitions, they'd clog up the courts, and that costs an awful lot of money. This is thought of as a serious argument by so-called "Constitutional scholars" of the Federalist Society variety.

You need to go listen to this garbage. Steve Inskeep actually does a decent job of very calmly taking the long view of what Yoo is saying. First Yoo tries to make these Combatant Status Review Tribunals sound like very civilized events, where detainees can challenge their incaraceration, but Inskeep simply points out that detainees don't get a lawyer for them, they can't see "classified" evidence leading to their detention, and in fact the transcripts we have of these tribunals show them to be nothing more than perfunctory show trials. Think Kafka.

So after that goes nowhere, Yoo actually circles around to his final argument, admitting that the process for denying habeas does virtually guarantee that innocent people will be detained indefinitely, but that war is untidy and if we had to go through the messy process of actually granting all these habeas petitions to prisoners at Guantanamo, well... it would just be too costly.

There's no perfect system. I agree, Steve, that there's always the chance that there will be people who are detained who are not enemy combatants. The same is true of our criminal justice system... that's why we have all these processes, that's why we have all these appeal levels, is to try and correct any mistakes that were made and fix errors. (processes in the criminal justice system, not the military commission system. Nice bit of attempted conflation there -ed.)

Inskeep: You said "always a chance." Isn't it a certainty, especially given that some cases have already been found to be, almost indisputably, cases of people who were innocent, being held at Guantanamo for a long time and held elsewhere?

Yoo: I would say yes, in wartime, there's always people who are going to be picked up...

Inskeep: Do you, as a lawyer, who's worked for the Bush Administration and obviously thought about these issues, think that this law does everything possible to prevent error?

Yoo: I think we could probably do a lot more, but it'd be a lot more expensive. I think what we have here is something close to the civilian sytem.

Inskeep: (shaking his head until his eyes bugged out, I'm assuming) Are you saying it would be too expensive to give habeas corpus protection to non-citizens?

Yoo: Yeah, I think that's what Congress decided when they passed this law last week (see, it's CONGRESS arguing this, not me! -ed.) is that, you could have the possibility of hundreds and hundreds of habeas corpus proceedings, and they do impose a cost. They impose a cost on our judicial system, they impose a cost on our government and our military. Think about it, you'd have to pull witnesses in from abroad. You have the cost of potentially releasing classified information. All of this process does have a cost on our system, it's not free.

Yeah, freedom isn't free, you jerk.

So the only argument that the guy who pretty much invented the idea of inherent supreme executive power enshrined in the Constitution could come up with to strip unlawful combatants of habeas corpus protections, not just non-citizens Mr. Inskeep but ANYONE so named by the Department of Defense, is that it'd be just such a burden to get a plane ticket for a witness to come over from Afghanistan, and think about the special meals requirements for that witness if they're a vegetarian, and you probably have to put them up in a hotel, and who's going to set THAT up, who could get on to get a decent rate, and... yes, it's just too much money to, you know, DO THE BUSINESS OF GOVERNMENT.

This from a lawyer for the Administration that wanted to spend $20 million on a party celebrating "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is the most dishonest, craven, contentless, most insulting argument I've heard yet for removing Magna Carta-era protections for suspects. "It's just too much money."

Is this guy still allowed to teach at colleges?

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