Last Tuesday, Keith Olberman, host of MSNBC's Countdown, talked with Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, about the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which The Decider recently signed into law.
Olberman summarizes the bill as follows:
First thing this morning, the president signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which does away with habeas corpus, the right of suspected terrorists or anybody else to know why they have been imprisoned, provided the president does not think it should apply to you and declares you an enemy combatant.
Further, the bill allows the CIA to continue using interrogation techniques so long as they do not cause what is deemed, quote, “serious physical or mental pain.” And it lets the president to ostensibly pick and choose which parts of the Geneva Convention to obey, though to hear him describe this, this repudiation of the freedoms for which all our soldiers have died is a good thing.
And here's a few discussion snips, mostly from Professor Turley:
OLBERMANN: Does this mean that under this law, ultimately the only thing keeping you, I, or the viewer out of Gitmo is the sanity and honesty of the president of the United States?
TURLEY: It does. And it’s a huge sea change for our democracy. The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the president. In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn’t rely on their good motivations.
Now we must. And people have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values.
It couldn’t be more significant. And the strange thing is, we’ve become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. I mean, the Congress just gave the president despotic powers, and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to, you know, Dancing with the Stars. I mean, it’s otherworldly.
And so we may have, in this country, some type of uber-president, some absolute ruler, and it’ll be up to him who gets put away as an enemy combatant, held without trial.
It’s something that no one though t-- certainly I didn’t think -- was possible in the United States. And I am not too sure how we got to this point. But people clearly don’t realize what a fundamental change it is about who we are as a country. What happened today changed us. And I’m not too sure we’re going to change back anytime soon.
Well, this is going to go down in history as one of our greatest self-inflicted wounds. And I think you can feel the judgment of history. It won’t be kind to President Bush.
But frankly, I don’t think that it will be kind to the rest of us. I think that history will ask: Where were you? What did you do when this thing was signed into law? There were people that protested the Japanese concentration camps. There were people that protested these other acts. But we are strangely silent in this national yawn as our rights evaporate.
Now Playing: In our name: all the trappings of the worst repressive regimes. No longer the land of liberty. The land of torture -- of detention without charge -- of gulags -- of flaunting humane treatment of prisoners -- of warrantless surveillance -- of granting our president the powers of a despot. The ideals of the United States have been drained away by a charlatan. The patient -- our national identity -- is near death.
But the bloodletting won't be on Law and Order. It will committed in your name by people representing you and acting cruelly because of the tacit approval of your silence.
Olberman is more eloquent on this matter than I: