Great Episode of ‘This American Life’ on Habeas Corpus

logo_chrisThis weeks award winning episode of radio show and podcast ‘This American Life‘, addresses the issue of Habeas Corpus. Broadly speaking, Habeas Corpus is the right of a prisoner to apply to be brought before a court to have the legality of their detention adjudicated. ‘This American Life’ examines how it’s suspension for detainees of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, and in secret extraterritorial prisons run by the CIA, has effected their treatment. The episode includes eye opening interviews with two former inmates of ‘Gitmo’.

In addition to providing a predictably terrifying list of interrogation techniques in use against detainees accused of ‘terrorist activities’, from electrocution, to sexual humiliation, water deprivation and physical violence; and documenting how bounties offered for Al-Qaeda members led to the imprisonment of innocent civilians; this episode also describes a fascinating chapter in the history of Habeas Corpus.

John Ronson, an author and documentarist in the vein of Louis Theroux, takes a look at the suspension of this Magna Carta granted right, during the British restoration, an act which led to the impeachment of the Earl responsible (Lord Clarendon); and 450 years later, to an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to the US Supreme court, by All-Party Parliamentary Group of 175 members of the British parliament.

Compelling and disturbing listening.

Links: MP3, Transcript, Podcast Feed


3 thoughts on “Great Episode of ‘This American Life’ on Habeas Corpus

  1. Bernie Goldbach says:

    This is the singlemost compelling issue that I thought you would have cited on your whirlwind tour of the States last year. Americans still don’t know what they have ceded to the Executive Branch.

  2. Gareth Stack says:

    I think the problem is that it’s such an abstract concept. Unless they specifically research it, the lay person (like myself) is unlikely to ever run into a explanation of habeas corpus; much less a situation where it’s denied them.

    The feeling I got in the US, even more strongly than here; was that while people distrust their government re: tax, corruption etc – they believe that deep down, things are basically fine in society, and nothing really bad is happening to people like them

    Those being directly affected (right now), by the removal of habeas corpus are so marginalised and demonised as to be invisible.

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