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Court Rules for GTMO Detainees

Court Rules for GTMO Detainees

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A view of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

A view of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

There seems to be agreement that this morning's Supreme Court ruling is a very big deal. At the same time, there's also consensus that the decision means very little for the detainees themselves. (The Court ruled 5-4 that foreign terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay do have the right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts.)

This is the third time the Court has ruled against the Bush administration on issues related to the treatment of prisoners. But, while the decision means that detainees can challenge their detention in federal courts, Justice Anthony Kennedy made clear that even if a court decides to set them free, any release order would depend on national security concerns. And as SCOTUSblog pointed out this morning, the decision leaves more issues undecided than it actually answers:

That's very, very big news.

But as far as I can tell just yet, the Court did not reach the two even more important questions:

1. Whether the Constitution applies to detainees held outside GTMO; and

2. What the substantive standard for detention is: "It bears repeating that our opinion does not address the content of the law that governs petitioners' detention. That is a matter yet to be determined."

At first glance, it would appear that although the decision is momentous, there are other important things that it does not do:

It does not speak to whether GTMO should be closed (although it basically undermines the Administration's principal reason for using GTMO in the first place, which was to keep the courts from reviewing the legality of the Executive's conduct).

Nor does it affect, in any dramatic sense, possible military commission trials - with the important exception that it invites the defendants in those trials to raise constitutional defenses, such as under the Ex Post Facto Clause.

I won't pretend to understand every aspect of this decision, but I suspect our SCOTUS buddy David Savage does. He's the Supreme Court reporter for the Los Angeles Times. We'll also hear from attorneys on both sides of the arguments. What questions do you have about the Court's decision, and what it means for GTMO and for the so-called war on terror?



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It is obvious why this administration has failed to grant habeas corpus to prisoners; they hate freedom and an open, accountable, democratic government.

Sent by David Bosch | 2:29 PM | 6-12-2008

The Bush Administration has used fear to lead this nation through some of the most challenging moments in history. The belief that letting prisoners go because there was no evidence agaist them will release another terrorist to fight against us again is just more propaganda. If they had done things properly, and abided by rules and laws, then we would not have to worry. Now we do because of Bush's ignorance.

Sent by Corrie | 2:37 PM | 6-12-2008

The president should have learned today that the only power has outside of the constitution is that to mow his lawn and walk his dog. The question has always been what governs the behavior of the government and how much we are willing spend to find the innocent among the guilty. The constitution answers the first and habeaus corpus answers the second. It was true six years ago and it is still true today. The court got it right.

Sent by Susan Franz | 2:47 PM | 6-12-2008

I know what you mean, David, Corrie, and Susan. That mean-old Bush and Cheney have kept these jihadis locked up unjustly. I say let them go..they have been deprived of plotting to destroy us by trans-atlantic commercial flight, killing innocents in Baghdad markets, bombing Australian night clubs, blowing up London Tube stations, they've basically missed out on all the good infidel killings over the past 8 years - unfair!

Sent by MO | 4:23 PM | 6-12-2008

Can the administration ignore this rolling if yes what parts cannot be ignored? How is this going to make a different during this administration ?

Sent by amir | 4:36 PM | 6-12-2008

The administration could chose to ignore the ruling. They'd have to convince the military, the Congress, the courts, and the federal marshalls to support them in doing it.

Right now they have no support from anyone with real constitutional power.

The ruling will stand and will be enforced.

I would guess the first habeas filings will be complete by the end of the month.

It will take a little longer to hear all the evidence, but it will now be a matter of months, not years.

Sent by Susan Franz | 12:17 AM | 6-13-2008

When *any* detainees are deprived of their right to habeus corpus, and their rights to confront the evidence against them, then we are all in danger. One of the founding principles of our justice system is "innocent until proven guilty" -- and that includes innocent of terrorist acts as much as it includes innocent of embezzling millions of dollars from American taxpayers. The burden of evidence is on the accusing party.

When we throw out "innocent until proven guilty" to *punish* those we *think, but cannot prove* to be terrorists, then any of us can be arrested and detained as terrorists, regardless of what we have done.

All citizens of America are guaranteed these rights by our laws -- unless, of course, you are named "enemy combatant" by presidential fiat. This means that you have no chance to argue with this designation, and that you are deprived of any rights, national and international, to face your accusers.

When will this administration admit that it has been wearing away at our 800-year old rights to be free from being detained without a fair trial?

Sent by A concerned citizen | 11:12 AM | 6-13-2008

Dear MO (4:23 PM ET | 06-12-2008):

You've made an assumption, that all the people held at Guantanamo are guilty of something. That's a little like assuming all Italians are members of the Mafia, and holding them without legal rights, or the bother of trials, lest they get out and commit more crimes.

Unfortunately for you, for Bush, and for America's reputation, it's already been demonstrated that the MAJORITY of those held there were actually innocent, so your assumption is false! What's wrong with giving them their day in court? A real court, not the kangaroo courts Bush tried to create. Remember, Habeas Corpus, merely gives them an opportunity to challenge their imprisonment, to require proof that they deserve to be their, and an opportunity to rebut that proof. It's not even a full trial (that would come later), but if the government can't provide any evidence that a prisoner is truly "the worst of the worst" beyond Bush's say-so, then that's not good enough!

Sent by Gordon | 9:01 PM | 6-22-2008