Gonzales needs a civics lesson

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last week said something pretty astounding in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee:
"there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution."
Senator Arlen Spector, R-PA, was flabbergasted.
SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is 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.” It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by —

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

"Just because we can only take it away in certain cases doesn't mean anyone has it to begin with!"

This is amazing because it really gives an insight into how this administration thinks of the Constitution and of the law in general. Rights, such as habeas corpus and the right to a trial, are not inherent in the demos; they are instead granted by the state, and thus the state can take them away when it so wishes (like when the President decided that if he declares someone as a terrorist, they get no rights). This is amazing because the Constitution does not grant a single thing. It recognizes rights that are inherent in individuals. The Declaration of Independence (while not a legal document, one might expect the Attorney General of the United States to be familiar with it anyway) states that rights are inherent as part of natural law - given by the Creator, not by the State.

In a larger sense, the administration's line of thinking leads to the conclusion that individuals can be defined by the freedoms granted to them by political authority. That is really really dangerous thinking. It reminds me of something I read in high school history class:
Granted that the XIXth century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the XXth century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the 'right', a Fascist century. If the 19th century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the 'collective' century, and therefore the century of the State. (Benito Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism)
Colbert did a piece on this, you can watch the clip here.

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