Civil Liberties, Habeas Corpus, and the War on Terror

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“Do we fear terrorism so much that we throw out our Constitution, and are we unwilling and afraid to debate our Constitution?” -Rand Paul We are living in a world that has been overwhelmed with war; a war that many of us will never have to physically fight but one that challenges us mentally every day. A war of terror and the constant battle against it. We have been overwhelmed with events that have led us to feel safety may be unattainable and at some point, when we are no longer able to protect ourselves physically, we have to rely on our legal system to protect us from evil in the world. It is sometimes hard to believe that anyone who acts against us would have legal rights at all but we live in a country that promotes freedom and allows everyone to be innocent until proven guilty. In the United States we are provided civil liberties that protect us, but can those rights get in the way of stopping an enemy and protect the wrong person? In the following paragraphs I will discuss in detail one legal action that was created to protect you and me, but in recent years has raised questions that challenge us to see that protection differently and maybe allow you to answer the question Rand Paul has asked. Habeas Corpus is an English common law that has existed for centuries as a “fix” of sorts for a legal system to protect a person being kept in custody. When used correctly, it essentially gives that person, or someone directly representing that person, the right to ask why they are being restrained and kept from other common laws and protects them from unlawful imprisonment. If held for reasons that cannot be explained then the law allows them to be released. This right can be suspended for various reasons but was put in place to allow for a balanced court and containment system. ( In modern America, it is easy to relate Habeas Corpus to our Sixth Amendment rights that state, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” ( For centuries, there have been questions asked about the depth of the right to Habeas Corpus as explained in the constitution but we cannot fully understand it is intended and thorough meaning until we explain its history that lies in the early English legal system. The term Habeas corpus translates from directly from Latin “You may have the body.” It is commonly thought that Habeas Corpus was first used in the early 1300’s while King Edward I was in power although previous monarchs exhibit the use of similar procedures dating back the 12th century. William Blackstone explains the legal action by saying, “The King is at all times entitled to have an account, why the liberty of any of his subjects is restrained, wherever that restraint may be inflicted.” While this action had been used for centuries before, the specifics of it weren’t officially defined until the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 as an Act of the Parliament of England. Since it is definition has been established, Habeas Corpus allows a prisoner or a third party to issue the legal action and petition a superior court against unlawful detention. If the individual is being held unlawfully, that prisoner can be released by the court or as we may explain it today, be offered bail.( While Habeas Corpus is most commonly related to English history and has since evolved to its place in American History, it also has been molded for other modern legal systems in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Ireland,...
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