some good news from the Supreme Court…


Richard Moore


The U.S. Supreme Court seems to be restoring a bit of
Constitutional law, in response to the attempt by the current
administration to implement a Gestapo regime complete with
concentration camps and torture chambers. I wonder why it took
the justices so long to get around to such a fundamentally
important issue? They responded with much more urgency
when they thrust Bush into the White House before the
votes had even been counted.

We can be very grateful their decision didn't go the other way.



 Justices: Detainees Can Have Court Hearings
 The Associated Press

 Monday 28 June 2004

Washington - The Supreme Court dealt a setback to the Bush
administration's war against terrorism today, ruling that both
U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seized as potential
terrorists can challenge their treatment in U.S. courts.

The court refused to endorse a central claim of the White
House since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 2001: That the
government has authority to seize and detain suspected
terrorists or their protectors and indefinitely deny access to
courts or lawyers while interrogating them.

The court did back the administration in one important
respect, ruling that Congress gave President Bush the
authority to seize and hold a U.S. citizen, in this case
Louisiana-born Yaser Esam Hamdi, as an alleged enemy

That bright spot for the administration was almost eclipsed,
however, by the court's ruling that Hamdi can use American
courts to argue that he is being held illegally. Foreign-born
men held at a Navy prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, can
also have their day in U.S. courts, the justices said.

Ruling in the Hamdi case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the
court has "made clear that a state of war is not a blank check
for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's

Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU, called the
rulings "a strong repudiation of the administration's argument
that its actions in the war on terrorism are beyond the rule
of law and unreviewable by American courts."

The court sidestepped a third major terrorism case, ruling
that a lawsuit filed on behalf of detainee Jose Padilla
improperly named Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld instead
of the much lower-level military officer in charge of the Navy
brig in South Carolina where Padilla has been held for more
than two years.

Padilla must refile a lawsuit challenging his detention in a
lower court.

The court left hard questions unanswered in all three cases.

The administration had fought any suggestion that Hamdi or
another U.S.-born terrorism suspect could go to court, saying
that such a legal fight posed a threat to the president's
power to wage war as he sees fit.

"We have no reason to doubt that courts, faced with these
sensitive matters, will pay proper heed both to the matters of
national security that might arise in an individual case and
to the constitutional limitations safeguarding essential
liberties that remain vibrant even in times of security
concerns," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in the Hamdi

O'Connor said that Hamdi "unquestionably has the right to
access to counsel."

The court threw out a lower court ruling that supported the
government's position fully, and Hamdi's case now returns to a
lower court.

O'Connor was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and
Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen Breyer in her view
that Congress had authorized detentions such as Hamdi's in
what she called very limited circumstances,

Congress voted shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks to give the
president significant authority to pursue terrorists, but
Hamdi's lawyers said that authority did not extend to the
indefinite detention of an American citizen without charges or

Two other justices, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
would have gone further and declared Hamdi's detention
improper. Still, they joined O'Connor and the others to say
that Hamdi, and by extension others who may be in his
position, are entitled to their day in court.

Hamdi and Padilla are in military custody at a Navy brig in
South Carolina. They have been interrogated repeatedly without
lawyers present.

In the Guantánamo case, the court said the Cuban base is not
beyond the reach of American courts even though it is outside
the country. Lawyers for the detainees there had said to rule
otherwise would be to declare the Cuban base a legal no-man's

The high court's ruling applies only to Guantánamo detainees,
although the United States holds foreign prisoners elsewhere.

The Bush administration contends that as "enemy combatants,"
the men are not entitled to the usual rights of prisoners of
war set out in the Geneva Conventions. Enemy combatants are
also outside the constitutional protections for ordinary
criminal suspects, the government has claimed.

The administration argued that the president alone has
authority to order their detention, and that courts have no
business second-guessing that decision.

The case has additional resonance because of recent
revelations that U.S. soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners and used
harsh interrogation methods at a prison outside Baghdad. For
some critics of the administration's security measures, the
pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison illustrated what might
go wrong if the military and White House have unchecked
authority over prisoners.

At oral arguments in the Padilla case in April, an
administration lawyer assured the court that Americans abide
by international treaties against torture, and that the
president or the military would not allow even mild torture as
a means to get information.

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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland
    "...the Patriot Act followed 9-11 as smoothly as the
      suspension of the Weimar constitution followed the
      Reichstag fire."  
      - Srdja Trifkovic

    There is not a problem with the system.
    The system is the problem.

    Faith in ourselves - not gods, ideologies, leaders, or programs.
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