It Can’t Happen Here.

J Edgar Hoover, former FBI Director

Sinclair Lewis wrote a book with the ironic title It Can’t Happen Here. (hat tip to Bruce Webb from comments here).

There is a strain of thought in American politics that prefers to consider the Constitution as an impediment. Another example comes to mind from this new information about a man with a familiar name, and it is not Prescott Bush.

The NYT reports:

A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty.

Hoover sent his plan to the White House on July 7, 1950, 12 days after the Korean War began. It envisioned putting suspect Americans in military prisons.

Hoover wanted President Harry S. Truman to proclaim the mass arrests necessary to “protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage.” The F.B.I would “apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous” to national security, Hoover’s proposal said. The arrests would be carried out under “a master warrant attached to a list of names” provided by the bureau.

The names were part of an index that Hoover had been compiling for years. “The index now contains approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven per cent are citizens of the United States,” he wrote.

“In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus,” it said.

Habeas corpus, the right to seek relief from illegal detention, has been a fundamental principle of law for seven centuries. The Bush administration’s decision to hold suspects for years at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has made habeas corpus a contentious issue for Congress and the Supreme Court today.

Some have argued that habeaus corpus can be suspended for a certain category of prisoner, with no effort to establish the accuracy of the charges, even if one can find out what the charge is. JAG has come under heavy pressure to relent on insistence for using military or civilian rules instead of a nebulous indefinite confinement.
Rule of law trumps convenience in my mind, and is the patriots duty to defend.