You really have to hand it to the man for being there when his party really needed him! For more than three decades, he has bravely stepped forward to defend Republican administrations against the evils of the Constitution of the United States. And just days ago, in true form, and hiding behind the anonymity of time, Judge David Bryan Sentelle has done it again!
In case you missed it, Judge Sentelle just joined Judge A. Raymond Randolph in a 2-1 decision that should unnerve everyone who reads it. Sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the two men ruled that that hundreds of detainees in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba do not have the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal courts.
In essence, George W. Bush and his cohorts can keep nearly 400 detainees caged in their Guantanamo prison indefinitely, with no charges, no access to counsel, and no way on earth to appeal their status or attempt to attempt to prove their innocence.
The ruling was based on the outrageous supposition that Guantanamo Bay prison is not US territory, and therefore excludes any claim of habeas corpus. The two prevailing judges insist that Guantanamo is a leased property that falls under Cuban sovereignty.
So, move the prisoners to the US and restore their rights as human beings being held by the government of the United States of America. Yeah, right.
For the record, this decision is consistent with the political record Sentelle has compiled on the bench. Bear in mind that this protege of Sen. Jesse Helms was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina by President Ronald Reagan in 1985. He was appointed to his current position to replace Antonin Scalia in 1987.
So, was it any surprise that in 1989 Judge Sentelle (along with Laurence Silberman) voted to overturn the convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter of Iran-Contra notoriety? After all, Sentelle had served as chairman of the Mecklenburg County Republican Party in North Carolina and had been a Reagan delegate at the 1984 GOP convention. Loyalty is, after all, loyalty.
Not long after, it was absolutely in character for Sentelle to appoint Kenneth Starr to replace Robert B. Fiske as lead independent council to investigate President Bill Clinton. So it is perfectly fitting that his ruling concerning the detainees so beautifully supports the goals of George Bush’s neocon empire seekers. Anything else would have been unthinkable.
Now bear in mind that the Bush administration recently fired and replaced seven U.S. attorneys, none of whom was charged with or guilty of wrongdoing. Under an obscure provision of the Patriot Act, Bush has been able to transfer to the Justice Department a power that historically was confined to the federal district courts. When this action was challenged by Democrats in the Senate, Republicans blocked a bill that would curb the Justice Department’s power to fire and replace federal prosecutors. Surprise, surprise.
Wonder, for a moment, why prosecutors loyal to the Bush administration are being placed in strategic federal positions? Wonder, for another moment, how a law passed in the middle of the night without challenge now allows the president of the United States to use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or to any “other condition.”
And then wonder who will be left to prosecute or sit in judgment of any crimes being committed by the Bush Crime Family? Poor Harriet Meyers, - she was supposed to protect her boss from her perch on the Supreme Court. Not to worry, Justices Roberts and Alito will do the job with similar concerns for their patrons in the White House.
And the rest of us will be left to marvel at how none of this ever gets on the mainstream newscasts, and how few people even know what habeas corpus is all about.
So, let’s hear it again for the Judge Sentelles on our federal benches, and for the newly appointed, terribly loyal prosecutors who will place political loyalty over their oaths to uphold the integrity of the US Constitution. And let’s hear it for the laws that pass in the night and barely get noticed by the networks, and the powers that are increasingly being handed to the man in the White House.
Democracy rarely dies in a dramatic upheaval. It is eroded by inches, as is happening even as we speak. Are you frightened yet? We are.