Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Civics Lesson from "This American Life"

I'm listening to this podcast right now, and it is blowing my mind. Do yourself a favor: download this and listen to it intently. It just may change the way you look at things.

Habeas Schmabeas
Winner of a 2006 Peabody Award

For a limited time, download an mp3 of this episode for free! It's our special, uncut version containing several minutes of additional material.Also, you can also download a transcript.

The right of habeas corpus has been a part of this country's legal tradition longer than we've actually been a country. It means the government has to explain why it's holding a person in custody. But now, the war on terror has nixed many of the rules we used to think of as fundamental. At Guantanamo Bay, our government initially claimed that the prisoners should not be covered by habeas — or even by the Geneva Conventions — because they're the most fearsome terrorist enemies we have. But is that true? Is it a camp full of terrorists, or a camp full of our mistakes?

Joseph Margulies, a lawyer for one of the detainees at Guantanamo, explains how the detention facility there was created to be an ideal interrogation facility. Any possible comfort, like water or natural light, are entirely controlled by the interrogators. (3 minutes)

Act One.There's No U.S. in Habeas.
Jack Hitt explains how President's Bush's War on Terror changed the rules for prisoners of war, and how it is that under those rules, it'd be possible that someone whose classified file declares that they pose no threat to the United States, could still be locked up indefinitely — potentially forever! — at Guantanamo. (24 minutes). Clarification: When Seton Hall Professor Baher Azmy discusses the classified file of his client, Murat Kurnaz, in this act, he is referring to information that had previously been made public and published in the Washington Post. That material has subsequently been reclassified.

Act Two. September 11th, 1660.
Habeas Corpus began in England. Recently, 175 members of the British Parliament filed a "friend of the court" brief in one of the Supreme Court cases on habeas and Guantanamo, apparently the first time that's happened in Supreme Court history. In their brief, the members of Parliament warn about the danger of suspending habeas: "During the British Civll War, the British created their own version of Guantanamo Bay and dispatched undesirable prisoners to garrisons off the mainland, beyond the reach of habeas corpus relief." In London, reporter Jon Ronson, author of Them, goes in search of what happened. (6 minutes)

Act Three. We Interrogate the Detainees.
Although over two hundred prisoners from the U.S. Facility at Guantanamo Bay have been released, few of them have ever been interviewed on radio or television in America. Jack Hitt conducts rare and surprising interviews with two former Guantanamo detainees about life in Guantanamo. (20 minutes)

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