Tauscher vows to support habeas corpus

House Armed Services Commitee press secretary Loren Dealy just told me she’s not aware of any amendment being offered to the Defense Department Authorization bill — now in markup — to restore habeas corpus rights rescinded under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Dealy said it’s an issue that chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., cares deeply about, and so he’s in the process of drafting a stand-alone bill rather than trying to insert it into this gi-normous bill.

Habeas corpus, for the Latin-challenged, essentially is the right to be brought to the court for a determination of whether one is imprisoned lawfully, and whether or not one should be released. It dates back to the 12th Century, preceding its 1215 codification in the Magna Carta‘s section 39; our Constitution‘s Article I, Section 9, says it “shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.” Yet under last year’s new law, those deemed “unlawful enemy combatants” no longer have this right.

Some blogs had posted the rumor of a habeas-corpus rider to the DOD bill — here, for instance — and this one called on readers to urge Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, to use her seat on the committee to support it.

Tauscher press secretary Kevin Lawlor this morning e-mailed to me a statement Tauscher and four other Armed Services Democrats had released last September in dissent from the Military Commissions Act, in which they said that “by extinguishing the court’s jurisdiction over pending and future habeas corpus petitions, this legislation contradicts the Constitution and numerous Supreme Court rulings.”

“Her thinking on this has not changed,” Lawlor told me a few minutes ago. “She will be supporting Chairman Skelton’s efforts; when we get a bill, she’ll be supporting it.”

UPDATE @ 12:26 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Lawlor just told me Tauscher will be an original co-sponsor of Skelton’s bill, which is expected to be introduced next week.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.