It happened when no one was paying attention--During the politically charged atmosphere of the 2006 mid-term elections, the United States Congress (Republicans and Democrats) passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
One of the most important and terrifying parts of this act is that it removes the protection of the Great Writ of habeas corpus. The Military Commissions Act allows the government to declare anyone they wish as "alien combatants". Anyone can be held indefinitely, without charges and then be denied all fundamental judicial rights including the ability to appear before a judge and contest the charges.
Habeas corpus is the name of a legal action whereby people being detained (jailed, imprisoned, etc.) can seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. The Great Writ has been one of the most important tools to safeguard the freedoms of citizens and visitors against arbitrary government action for almost 800years!
"The Great Writ," a writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum is a court order addressed to a prison official (or other custodian) ordering that a prisoner be brought before the court so that the court can determine whether that person is serving a lawful sentence or should be released from custody. The prisoner, or someone on his behalf, may petition the court or an individual judge for a writ of habeas corpus.