Week in Review: Guantanamo Reviewed, Deadlock in Iraq
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
This week the Supreme Court rules that prisoners of Guantanamo Bay can challenge their detentions in federal court. Iraq's prime minister says that negotiations to spell out the legal status of U.S. troops in Iraq are deadlocked for now. President Bush appeals to European leaders to toughen sanctions on Iran.
NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.
DAN SCHORR: Hi, Scott.
SIMON: And let's begin with this Supreme Court ruling...
SIMON: ...that detainees at Guantanamo Bay can challenge their custody in federal court. Writing for the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy said, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive and remain in force in extraordinary times.
SIMON: President Bush says he disagrees with the ruling but certainly will comply...
SCHORR: President Bush said he doesn't agree but he will comply and that's a relief.
SIMON: What's the portend of this ruling?
SCHORR: Well, the portend - this is habeas corpus, the most ancient of rights going back to the Magna Carta and enshrined in our constitution. And you can't hold a person indefinitely without producing him, habeas corpus produced (unintelligible).
And the question here involved with in court - well, yes, in American right, is also a right for foreigners. There are about 270 people locked up in Guantanamo and they are alien combatants. Do they have the same rights as Americans? When it comes to habeas corpus, five of the justices said yes.
SIMON: Is this the beginning of the end for Guantanamo?
SCHORR: Well, I don't know where the end for Guantanamo was ever going to come. When they tried to return some of the people, the countries they come from won't take them anymore. And it looks as though having held on to these people for six years there's going to be some difficulty getting rid of them, finding somebody who's willing to accept them.
They may have to end up in the United States.
SIMON: What about the argument that the administration's really made from the beginning that these are essentially combatants on the field of battle in the global war against terrorism…
SIMON: …even though they won't wear a uniform. They also are something different that we haven't seen before.
SCHORR: The Supreme Court says it can only be suspended in case of the invasion of the United States. It doesn't say that we don't like them and they're bad people and some of them may be but…
SIMON: Well, that's what some of the countries who are refusing to take them say.
SCHORR: That's right. I mean, we're stuck.
SIMON: The presidential candidates, Senators McCain and Obama have taken different positions on the court's ruling.
SCHORR: That's right. I mean, as you might expect, Senator Obama is fully in support; Senator McCain isn't exactly against it but indicates that he has his reservations about it.
SIMON: What do you make of the running debate they've been having this week on the economy and taxes?
SCHORR: Well, it's very interesting. They have been a lot of a complaints that there was just too much about ad-libbing and character and you couldn't tell what the people were like if you didn't know what their policies were. So, they now started to be engaged in sign of a running debate - not being quite together - but a running debate on tax policy.
And it comes out about as you might expect. The Democrat says I'll soak the rich and the Republican says I want to cut taxes for everybody. It goes on and on and on but you'll get about what you would expect on taxes.
SIMON: President Bush has been in Europe this week and among other things he's been trying to persuade European countries to get tougher on Iran's nuclear development program. Any inroads on that issue?
SCHORR: In Germany and in France they said they are going to try for tougher sanctions against Iran and so on. Whether it means anything is not clear. What is clear is that if it's any idea, this business of having all options on the table, whether that might conceivably mean the use of force, there will be apparently no support through the use of force and looks like a no-no.
SIMON: Now, in Iraq U.S. has been trying to negotiate a new status of forces agreement. It will define the U.S. military after the U.N. mandate, I guess, expires at the end of the year.
SIMON: Some Iraqi leaders, notably Prime Minister Maliki…
SIMON: …he says the talks are deadlocked. There seems to be a real disagreement between the Iraqi government and the U.S. government…
SCHORR: It certainly is. The Saudi Arabian newspaper, Arab News, which presumably speaks for Saudi Arabia, said this is an attempt in the colonization of Iraq by the United States. They want to have more than 50 bases all over the country and from there continue to rule the country. Well, that may be an exaggeration of what is intended in this status of forces but it certainly indicates the attitude of the Arabs towards it.
SIMON: Do you see a resolution?
SCHORR: No, but other people found resolutions where I haven't in the past.
SIMON: And I guess that's why you're in journalism; they're in what they do. Gosh, I mean, terrible news for those of us - well, terrible news for those of us who knew him and millions of Americans who followed him for so many years. Tim Russert of NBC died of a…
SIMON: …coronary embolism…
SIMON: …on Friday. Host of "Meet the Press" since 1991.
SIMON: He was always very nice to me at NBC. A man who loved his family, his faith and his country.
SCHORR: And nice to me. When I had a book, he had me on "Meet the Press." He and his wife also were neighbors of ours across the street. They then moved away. I considered him - he was a kind of quintessential professional journalist.
SIMON: Dan, thanks very much.
SCHORR: My pleasure.