One of the painful ironies of the conservative movement over the last twenty years is that right-wing activists have often protested and rallied against phantom menaces — black helicopters, Obama’s death panels, a conspiracy to take away gun rights, etc. — while abetting a massive expansion of governmental powers.
After 9/11, the US government circumvented habeas corpus laws and deliberately sent suspected terrorists (some of them wrongly identified) to foreign countries where they would be tortured.
Federal officials and contractors have also used torture in direct interrogations. Guantanamo Bay still holds human beings who have never been charged with any crime.
For a fascinating illumination of this issue, check out this video. I found it on a liberal website, but it comes from Book TV on C-Span 2.
The clip features a compelling conversation between Ralph Nader and conservative legal scholar Andrew Napolitano (a regular guest on Fox News).
Napolitano — like many conservatives — is a constitutional purist and embraces the “natural law” arguments dear to the Right’s larger political theories.
In his view, our actions over the last decade have been a direct attack on those small-government principles:
Well that is so obviously a violation of the natural law, the natural right to be brought before a neutral arbiter within moments of the government taking your freedom away from you.
And the Constitution itself, as the Supreme Court in the Boumediene case pretty much said, wherever the government goes, the Constitution goes with it and wherever the Constitution goes are the rights of the Constitution as a guarantee and habeas corpus cannot be suspended by the president ever.
It can only be suspended by the Congress in times of rebellion…rebellion of such magnitude that judges can’t get into their court houses. That has not happened in American history.
So what President Bush did with the suspension of habeas corpus, with the whole concept of Guantanamo Bay, with the whole idea that he could avoid and evade federal laws, treaties, federal judges and the Constitution was blatantly unconstitutional and is some cases criminal.
There’s much more that is equally provocative, including a discussion of the slow expansion of government power in our criminal justice system.
Watch the video and then share your thoughts below.