In a stunning blow to the Bush Administration in its war-on-terrorism policies, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to pursue habeas challenges to their detention. The Court, dividing 5-4, ruled that Congress had not validly taken away habeas rights. If Congress wishes to suspend habeas, it must do so only as the Constitution allows — when the country faces rebellion or invasion.
The Court stressed that it was not ruling that the detainees are entitled to be released — that is, entitled to have writs issued to end their confinement. That issue, it said, is left to the District Court judges who will be hearing the challenges. The Court also said that “we do not address whether the President has authority to detain” individuals during the war on terrorism, and hold them at the U.S. Naval base in Cuba; that, too, it said, is to be considered first by the District judges.
The Court also declared that detainees do not have to go through the special civilian court review process that Congress created in 2005, since that is not an adequate substitute for habeas rights. The Court refused to interpret the Detainee Treatment Act — as the Bush Administration had suggested — to include enough legal protection to make it an adequate replacement for habeas. Congress, it concluded, unconstitutionally suspended the writ in enacting that Act.
The Court also found serious defects in the process that the Pentagon set up in 2004 to decide which prisoners are to be designated as “enemy combatants” — the status that leads to their continued confinement. This process is the system of so-called Combatant Status Review Tribunals. The procedures used by CSRTs, the Court said, “fall well short of the procedures and adversarial mechanisms that would eliminate the need for habeas corpus review.”
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s opinion for the majority in Boumediene v. Bush (06-1195) and Al Odah v. U.S. (06-1196) was an almost rhapsodic review of the history of the Great Writ. The Suspension Clause, he wrote, “protects the rights of the detained by a means consistent with the essential design of the Constitution. It ensures that, except during periods of formal suspension, the Judiciary will have a time-tested device, the writ, to maintain the ‘delicate balance of governance’ that is itself the surest safeguard of liberty.” Those who wrote the Constitution, he added, “deemed the writ to be an essential mechanism in the separation-of-powers scheme.”
Even though the two political branches — the President and Congress — had agreed to take away the detainees’ habeas rights, Kennedy said those branches do not have “the power to switch the Constitution on or off at will.”
In a second ruling on habeas, the Court decided unanimously that U.S. citizens held by U.S. military forces in Iraq have a right to file habeas cases, because it does extend to them, but it went on to rule that federal judges do not have any authority to bar the transfer of those individuals to Iraqi authorites to face prosecution or punishment for crimes committed in that country in violation of Iraqi laws.
Gee it’s a good thing that this imbecilic ruling doesn’t guarantee immediate release, especially when they tend to pick up where they left off, doing the same shit that got them an 8×10 at GITMO in the first place:
All other two dissenters joined with the Chief Justice and Justice Antonin Scalia. In his dissent, Justice Scalia writes:
“The game of bait-and-switch that today’s opinion plays upon the Nation’s Commander in Chief will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” “The Nation will live to regret what the Court has done today. I dissent.”
The SCOTUS is chock full of judges who don’t have a clue as to why we have those terrorists at GITMO in the first place. Or the fact that nowhere in the Constitution of the United States does it mention enemy combatants or foreign citizens. If there’s been some kind of an amendment that we’re not aware of, let us know.
Those slugs were captured after firefights, caught planting IED’s, and arrested as part of sweeps for terrorist cells. I won’t lose one minute’s sleep over it, either. Maybe the approving Justices could pay a visit to GITMO and tell the Soldiers whose job it is to guard them, all about their ‘reasoning’ for this asinine decision.
Crap like this is precisely why we should’nt take prisoners.
BTW: Barack Obama showed more of his ignorance by comparing this decision to similar to the ‘due process’ in the Nuremberg trials. The trouble is, the Nazi defendants were never granted habeas corpus through American civil courts.
Obama, a former senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, cited “that principle of habeas corpus, that a state can’t just hold you for any reason without charging you and without giving you any kind of due process — that’s the essence of who we are. I mean, you remember during the Nuremberg trials, part of what made us different was even after these Nazis had performed atrocities that no one had ever seen before, we still gave them a day in court and that taught the entire world about who we are but also the basic principles of rule of law. Now the Supreme Court upheld that principle yesterday.”
(Though Obama was clearly referring to the principle of giving criminals a day in court, it’s worth pointing out the distinction here, that the Nuremberg trials did not give Nazi war criminals access to U.S. courts, but to a special international military tribunal created by the U.S., USSR, France and the U.K. Though Nuremberg currently is considered a model for international law, it’s not as if Rudolph Hess had access to challenge his detention in U.S. federal court.)
And he was a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School…..jeeezus.