There is just a lot of interesting stuff going on here at the moment.
Justices Rule Terror Suspects Can Appeal in Civilian Courts
WASHINGTON — Foreign terrorism suspects held at the Guantánamo Bay naval base in Cuba have constitutional rights to challenge their detention there in United States courts, the Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, on Thursday in a historic decision on the balance between personal liberties and national security.
The ruling came in the latest battle between the executive branch, Congress and the courts over how to cope with dangers to the country in the post-9/11 world. Although there have been enough rulings addressing that issue to confuse all but the most diligent scholars, this latest decision, in Boumediene v. Bush, No. 06-1195, may be studied for years to come.
In a harsh rebuke of the Bush administration, the justices rejected the administration’s argument that the individual protections provided by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 were more than adequate.
“The costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody,” Justice Kennedy wrote, assuming the pivotal role that some court-watchers had foreseen.
President Bush, speaking in Rome at a news conference with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, said: “We’ll abide by the court’s decision. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. It was a deeply divided court, and, I strongly agree with those who dissented.” The president said the administration would work with Congress to see what measures could be devised to deal with the detainees. The issues that were weighed in Thursday’s ruling went to the very heart of the separation-of-powers foundation of the United States Constitution. “To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this court, say ‘what the law is,’ ” Justice Kennedy wrote, citing language in the 1803 ruling in Marbury v. Madison, in which the Supreme Court articulated its power to review acts of Congress.
Joining Justice Kennedy’s opinion were Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter. Writing separately, Justice Souter said the dissenters did not sufficiently appreciate “the length of the disputed imprisonments, some of the prisoners represented here today having been locked up for six years.”
Reflecting how the case divided the court not only on legal but, perhaps, emotional lines, Justice Scalia said that the United States was “at war with radical Islamists,” and that the ruling “will almost certainly cause more Americans to get killed.”
“The nation will live to regret what the court has done today,” Justice Scalia said.
And Chief Justice Roberts said the majority had struck down “the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants,” and in doing so had left itself open to accusations of “judicial activism.”
The chief justice said the majority had gutted the Detainee Treatment Act without really giving it a chance. “And to what effect?” he wrote. “The majority merely replaces a review system designed by the people’s representatives with a set of shapeless procedures to be defined by federal courts at some future date.”
Indeed, the immediate effects of the ruling are not clear. For instance, Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, told The Associated Press he had no information on whether a hearing at Guantánamo for Omar Khadr, a Canadian charged with killing an American soldier in Afghanistan, would go forward next week, as planned. Nor was it initially clear what effects the ruling would have beyond Guantánamo.
The 2006 Military Commission Act stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions filed by detainees challenging the bases for their confinement. That law was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in February 2007.
At issue were the “combatant status review tribunals,” made up of military officers, that the administration set up to validate the initial determination that a detainee deserved to be labeled an “enemy combatant.”