The Bill of Rights was ratified and in full effect in 1791. It spelled out rights and freedoms which protected citizens from the government and gave them, most especially; protections under the law against criminal accusations made against them. In 2001, John Walker Lindh (known to some as the “American Taliban”) became an accused man; he was an American citizen and alleged anti-American terrorist. Lindh was denied a number of rights vital to make his proper, fair, and full defense. Lindh’s constitutional rights should have been upheld despite the charges against him and any possible intelligence towards the war on terror he may have had; for there is a slippery-slope to denying someone these constitutional rights.
The glitch in Lindh’s case, for all American citizens, is that if the story were to play out right; any one of them could be without their constitutional protections. To the founders of the United States Constitution felt that government most certainly has the right to accuse you, me, or anyone else; but also that, under the law, we should have constitutional rights providing us with a fair trial and defense against such accusations.
Due process and Habeas Corpus are two of the very important pillars upon which American democracy and freedoms are based. Without these rights there is no system to fight against the tyranny of the government; and it is such tyranny that the founders of the constitution fought vehemently against. While these ideas of due process of law and habeas corpus were not new to the founders and the foundation of these freedoms can be found in a much older historical document called the Magna Carta, they found them to be of the utmost importance. In 39th clause of the Magna Carta, King John decrees, "No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land" (Davis). The founders recognized the importance of these laws in the making of a free and just society and preventing the tyranny of government. The founders purposely amended these protections into the Bill of Rights and stripping these rights away from American citizens is not only unjust, it is unconstitutional. As a detriment to all American citizens, Lindh’s rights, fought so hard for by the framers of the Constitution, were assaulted in many ways.
One way his rights were violated was in the fact that he never had the presumption of innocence. John Lindh did not have the luxury of being presumed innocent until proven guilty. As shown in the article Lost in the Jihad which quotes Attorney General John Ashcroft professing his guilt at a press conference, in advance of Lindh’s indictment, relating Lindh as “an Al Qaeda-trained terrorist” (qtd. in Mayer, 1).
While the presumption of innocence is not laid out...