The Supreme Court ruled that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba have the constitutional right to challenge their detention in federal court. It was the court's third ruling against President Bush's handling of suspected terrorists captured abroad. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 majority, said that the “political branches” of government don’t have “the power to switch the Constitution on or off at will.” (The New York Times)
What the commentators said
This is “a stunning blow to the Bush Administration in its war-on-terrorism policies,” said Lyle Denniston in SCOTUSblog. If Bush or Congress wants to suspend habeas corpus rights, the high court said, it must do so “as the Constitution allows—when the country faces rebellion or invasion.” Neither is the case here, and the military tribunals set up to address the Guantánamo quandary are “not an adequate substitute for habeas rights.”
It is "profoundly—dangerously—wrong," said the New York Daily News in an editorial, for the justices to promote such “extreme—emphasis on ‘extreme’—legal niceties over national security.” Thanks to this “monumental” judicial overreach, unelected judges, not the military, will determine who are “terrorists” and who are “simple goatherds, as they all claim to be.” Justice Antonin Scalia is right that we’ll live to regret this ruling, because it will cost American lives.
"Scalia and his dissenting friends” are “worried about the risk of . . . what?” said Dahlia Lithwick in Slate. It’s clear that a majority of the justices “are worried about the very real risk of a lifetime of mistaken imprisonment” for the 270 detainees, but the dissenters seem to fear that our prisoners may someday get a “day in court.” The “big threat here is of federal court review,” somewhere down the line, and that just doesn’t seem too scary.
Really, this “clash” between Bush and the Supreme Court “was inevitable,” said John Farmer in the Newark, N.J., Star Ledger. Bush was “doing only what his oath of office required” by trying to protect the American people from suspected terrorists, “but the Supreme Court has obligations of its own, none greater than to protect basic constitutional rights.”
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