EXCHANGES

The Bill of Rights, and Sometimes Wrongs

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has raised some eyebrows in legal circles because of the following exchange last Thursday with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) at a meeting of the Judiciary Committee over the writ of habeas corpus. The Latin term, roughly interpreted as "you have the body," refers to the centuries-old right of prisoners to challenge their confinement.

Gonzales : The fact that the Constitution -- again, there is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution. There's a prohibition against taking it away.

But it's never been the case. I'm not aware of a Supreme . . .

Specter : Wait a minute. Wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there's an invasion or rebellion?

Gonzales : I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas. Doesn't say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except . . .

Specter : You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.


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