THE BLOG
10/02/2006 02:08 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Buried Lede Dept.: Habeas What?

Sunday's NYT had a long piece about the intra-Administration discussions leading up to the detainee legislation approved last week by Congress. The lede of the story is a scene-setter about two national security officials beginning the process of reconsidering the treatment of detainees at Gitmo and the CIA secret prisons. You have to read all the way to the end of the story to see what might be the most newsworthy paragraph, so here it is:

The element of the new legislation that raised the sharpest criticism among legal scholars and human rights advocates last week was the scaling back of the habeas corpus right of terrorism suspects to challenge their detention in the federal courts. But in dozens of high-level meetings on detention policy, officials said, that provision was scarcely even discussed.

Sure, as I contended in a reply to a commenter, the abrogation of habeas corpus in the eventual legislation is done in a "fingers crossed" move to win votes while assuming the Supreme Court will absolve Congress of their constitutional sin. But the idea that, in months of meetings among top military and civilian lawyers at the highest ranks of the executive branch, the notion of abrogating a right that goes back to the Magna Carta, a right enshrined in English jurisprudence for over 800 years, was "scarcely even discussed" is highly newsworthy, even in the present degraded context of the word.