Friday, June 13, 2008

The Precious Jewel

Glenn Greenwald on the Supreme Court ruling:

The Supreme Court today did what the Founders envisioned it should do: it protected our basic constitutional guarantees from erosion and assault by a corrupt majority within the political class. In so doing, the Court took a mild though important step in reversing some of the worst and most tyrannical excesses of the last seven years. Patrick Henry warned long ago of the unique dangers of allowing executive imprisonment without meaningful process:

Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings — give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else! . . . Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel.

In his concurring opinion in Brown v. Allen (1953), Justice Jackson wrote:

Executive imprisonment has been considered oppressive and lawless since John, at Runnymede, pledged that no free man should be imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, or exiled save by the judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. The judges of England developed the writ of habeas corpus largely to preserve these immunities from executive restraint.

Our political and media elite were more than willing — they were eager — to relinquish that right to the President in the name of keeping us Safe from Terrorists. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court, in what will be one of the most celebrated landmark rulings of this generation, re-instated that basic right, and in so doing, restored one of the most critical safeguards against the very tyranny this country was founded to prevent.

Historical footnote: on this date in 1966, the Supreme Court issued the Miranda ruling that established the practice that defendants must be informed of their rights — i.e. “you have the right to remain silent” — and ever after giving cop show producers a very effective exit line for a scene.