The Spectacle Blog

Habeas Corpus Rights at Gitmo

By on 6.12.08 | 2:32PM

I'm still sorting through the decision myself, but this is probably the most important Supreme Court decision yet overturning President Bush's policies in the War on Terror, even though in this case Congress had affirmed those policies.

The decision fell along predictable ideological lines, with Justice Kennedy acting as the tie-breaking vote and writing the majority opinion.

Orin Kerr excerpts some key passages from the ruling, and I think this part clarifies where the majority was coming from:

It is true that before today the Court has never held that noncitizens detained by our Government in territory over which another country maintains de jure sovereignty have any rights under our Constitution. But the cases before us lack any precise historical parallel. They involve individuals detained by executive order for the duration of a conflict that, if measured from September 11, 2001, to the present, is already among the longest wars in American history. See Oxford Companion to American Military History 849 (1999). The detainees, moreover, are held in a territory that, while technically not part of the United States, is under the complete and total control of our Government. Under these circumstances the lack of a precedent on point is no barrier to our holding.

We hold that Art. I, §9, cl. 2, of the Constitution has full effect at Guantanamo Bay. If the privilege of habeas corpus is to be denied to the detainees now before us, Congress must act in accordance with the requirements of the Suspension Clause. . . . The MCA does not purport to be a formal suspension of the writ; and the Government, in its submissions to us, has not argued that it is. Petitioners, therefore, are entitled to the privilege of habeas corpus to challenge the legality of their detention.

I still haven't had a chance to read the dissenting opinions written by Scalia and Roberts, which were both joined by Alito and Thomas. Much more at SCOTUS blog.
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