Government can’t hold combatants

The Supreme Court agreed last week to hear a case challenging President Bush’s self-assumed right to hold U.S. citizens without charge and without counsel simply by labeling them as “enemy combatants.”

The case in question, Rumsfeld v. Padilla, centers around one Jose Padilla from Chicago who was arrested after visiting Pakistan. The Bush administration maintains that he was part of a plot to commit terrorist attacks in the United States.

Though this case is separate from one concerning prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it still has enormous potential to affect Americans’ civil liberties in wartime.

However much we’d like to forget it, America’s record of upholding the rights of its citizens in times of war is worse than unsatisfactory: It’s appalling.

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus, imprisoning thousands without trial. During World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt sent hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans into internment camps, robbing them of their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Now, using his “war on terror” as an excuse, Bush wants to expand his powers just as his predecessors attempted.

Every American, especially the president, should know that you cannot simply throw someone in prison and explain your actions as “necessary for national security.” That power represents something grave and frightening, and threatens the liberties of every American.

The threat of a terrorist attack does not justify the federal government withholding the rights of its citizens. To allow such an action would mean nothing less than victory for the terrorists from which we are trying to protect ourselves.