Thursday, June 12, 2008

Indefinite Detention without Trial Ruled Unconstitutional

Now that the weather has finally broken 60 degrees Fahrenheit here in Seattle, I'm leaving very early tomorrow morning for North Carolina. (The sun's even out!) In haste, I'd like to call attention to a US Supreme Court decision that most people have probably already heard about: the High Court has ruled in a 5-4 decision that detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have a constitutional right to challenge their detentions in federal court and that congressional legislation has failed to provide a reasonable substitute for such a hearing. Although Congress has helped the Bush Administration get around the previous rulings attempting to curtail its abuses of prisoners, this decision goes straight to the premise on which the whole sorry structure of the administration's detention policies rests. As ABC News writes:

The ruling invalidates portions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which created military tribunals to hear the cases of those held at Guantanamo.

The decision was 5-4, with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the four liberal justices on the court.

Writing for the majority opinion striking down the Military Commissions Act, Kennedy wrote, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."

Interesting to note that John McCain's first reaction is to seem puzzled that foreigners might be afforded the same civil rights as citizens:

"These are unlawful combatants. They are not American citizens, and I think we should pay attention to Justice Roberts' opinion in this decision," McCain said. "But it is a decision that the Supreme Court has made; now we need to move forward. As you know, I always favored closing Guantanamo Bay and I still think we ought to do that."

Read the whole article here, though I'll warn you that I find some of its wording dubious. (It more than once claims that "Military lawyers say..." as though all military lawyers support the statements so attributed, regardless of the fact that many military lawyers are profoundly disturbed by Guantanamo and the Administration's detention policies and some have even sacrificed their careers to oppose them.)

I'll be away from home for the next week, by the way, and suspect that I'll be without an Internet connection the entire time. If you email me and I don't respond, that's likely the reason why.