Writ and Wrongs
A new study reveals the penal origins of a fundamental right
From England to Empire
by Paul D. Halliday
$39.95 List Price
Before September 11, 2001, the doctrine of habeas corpus—the principle that the state must explain why it's hauled you off in leg shackles—was rarely the subject of legal dispute. Habeas cases were filed, and the writ was either granted or denied. But the claim that judges couldn't hear such cases—that the government might detain great masses of people for years on end and without justification—wasn't really open to debate. Habeas corpus is, after all, the only common-law doctrine enshrined in the Constitution. But after 9/11, the Bush administration began to round up foreigners, classify them as enemy combatants, and ship them to Guantánamo, where they awaited trials that never came.
Amid much wrangling in the courts, Congress then passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which provided, in part: "No court,
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