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Habeas Corpus, 1789-2006

Habeas corpus is your principle defense against imprisonment without charge and trial without defense, now thrown away for no good reason, with the president's signature yesterday on the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Furthermore, the president is empowered to decide who is an "unlawful enemy combatant." That category can now include citizens and non-citizens alike -- and if you are deemed an enemy of the state, you can be arrested and jailed, no questions asked (or answered).

The president can also pick and choose which parts of the Geneva Convention he will obey, i.e., torture is now "legal," so God help you if you are one of the detainees.

As Senator Feingold said, "We will look back on this day as a stain on American history."

Keith Olbermann discusses the details with George Washington University law professor Jonathan 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 the honesty of the President of the United States?

TURLEY: It does. It is a huge sea change for our democracy. The Framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or the good mood of the president. In fact, James 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. People have no idea how significant this is, what 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. The strange thing is, we've become Constitutional couch potatoes. The Congress just gave the president despotic powers and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to "Dancing With The Stars." It's other-worldly.

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