Enemy Combatants Can Challenge Detentions. Reuters (via Washington post) reports:
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that an American captured overseas in President Bush's war on terrorism cannot be held indefinitely in a U.S. military jail without a chance to contest the detention.
Key points from the summary (the opinion isn't online yet):
- Four justices (only four???) say due process rights requires that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant must be given “a meaningful opportunity” to contest the case for his detention before a neutral party. [From this summary, this could mean anything, including much less than a real trial.]
- “Two more justices agreed that the detention of American citizen Yaser Hamdi was unauthorized and that the terror suspect should have a real chance to offer evidence he is not an enemy combatant.” I have no idea what that means — is that more or less of a hearing?
- Presumably that means three Justices would let the government lock up Yaser Esam Hamdi — in the brig for more than two years and only recently allowed to see a lawyer with military eavesdroppers present and a censored list of subjects (e.g. lawyer couldn't ask if he'd been tortured) — and throw away the key based on their unsupported word that he deserved it. No trial, no arraignment, no lawyer, no rights.
But there's no substitute for reading the opinions; they should be available soon.
Update: The New York Times has a totally different spin saying “Supreme Court Partially Sides With Bush on American Detainee Case” with the majority opinion by O'Connor with Rehnquist and Breyer; with Souter and Ginsburg writing the concurrence. That would be 5-4? Only it's hard to imagine Stevens not siding for the detainee if Rehnquist and Breyer did. (But see flag burning…)
“Padilla loses 5-4 on jurisdictional grounds. [he “sought habeas in wrong place”]
Hamdi wins 8-1.
Gitmo detainees win 6-3.”
What the hell? This is a combination of outcomes I really wasn’t expecting …
LA times has this:
Ruling in the case of American-born detainee Yaser Esam Hamdi, 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 citizens.”
Congress did give the president authority to hold Hamdi, a four-justice plurality of the court said, but that does not cancel out the basic right to a day in court.
The court ruled similarly in the case of about 600 foreign-born men held indefinitely at a U.S. Navy prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The men can use American courts to contest their captivity and treatment, the high court said.
The Supreme 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.
First Newdow, now Padilla. Did I miss the Chief Justice’s proclamation of Let’s Not Issue Rulings That Will Piss Off Many People No Matter Which Way We Decide Month?
Seth, good one. note to self: when making bold predictions, always remember where you posted the darn thing, so that later on you can go back and preen your feathers (or eat crow as the case may be)…
a few days ago, somewhere, I predicted that the Supremes would punt on Padilla if at all possible. I think that privately Ye Olde Justices are pretty seriously freaked out by the size of the Executive Avalanche and the speed with which it is approaching the retaining wall of Constitution of the United States. Actually I suspect that Thomas doesn’t really get it, and that Scalia wouldn’t be so bothered if it didn’t make him look really really bad, but everybody else is seriously concerned.
I didn’t think they’d be able to come up with a rationale, but then I wasn’t really familiar with the details either, and I have to admit at first blush that they seem to have come up with a pretty good one. I’d rather they had come up with a rationale for explicitly reaffirming the absolute primacy of the Bill of Rights, but ya pays yer nickel and takes yer chances.
Hamdi is actually a 4-2-2-1 decision. Souter and Ginsburg join with the plurality in the judgment, but don’t agree that the detention was even authorized by Congress in the first place. Huh? Your detention is unauthorized, but here, go have a hearing on it anyway? I suppose the alternative would have been a 4-4-1 split, which means ….what? Somebody help me here. Would that have meant that the lower court ruling stands? Hamdi rots in the brig? That explains it, I guess.