Clinton Backs Habeas Corpus as Supremes Deliberate

12/05/2007 05:04 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

"Congress has spoken," the Bush administration told the Supreme Court today, citing the Military Commissions Act (MCA) to defend its practice of holding detainees indefinitely and suspending habeas corpus in the fight against terrorists. The argument is irrelevant, of course, if the Supreme Court finds that the MCA is unconstitutional, since Congress cannot override the Constitution. Many members of Congress have said exactly that, including former Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (who still voted for the bill), and today Hillary Clinton reiterated the point in an excellent and strong statement explaining what is at stake:

Today, the Supreme Court considered deeply troubling implications of the Military Commissions Act of 2007, a law I vigorously opposed when it was debated on the Senate floor...The specific question before the Court is whether detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay can be denied the right of habeas corpus -- the right to challenge the legality of their detention, to ask why they are being held. The Court should restore this basic right. Our Nation must not indefinitely detain anyone without safeguards to ensure we are holding the right person. This is one of the bedrock principles enshrined in our Constitution; it is the way our Founders believed we could be secure against those who would abuse government power. I believe we do not have to abandon our constitutional principles or our values as Americans in the name of fighting terrorism. We can defeat terrorists around the world and preserve who we are as Americans. When we sacrifice one for the sake of the other, we hand our enemies a victory. Unfortunately, under President Bush, Guantanamo Bay has come to represent a flagging commitment to justice and contempt for the rule of law. This is not only a threat to our values -- it also harms our national security interests and our moral authority in the eyes of the world.

While Clinton is the only Democratic presidential candidate to release a statement on today's arguments, they all opposed the MCA and support restoring habeas corpus. Chris Dodd has gone the farthest on this front, authoring legislation to repeal most of the MCA, which Obama cosponsored, while Joe Biden has introduced the "National Security with Justice Act" to close U.S. government "black sites," which are basically outsourced Gitmos. Transcripts and recordings of the arguments in today's cases, Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. U.S., are posted at SCOTUSblog.

Ari Melber writes for The Nation, where this post first appeared.