Thursday, June 29, 2006

We are a government of laws

By Creature

Guess what? The president of the United States, much to his surprise, is not above the law. And even better, not above the Geneva Conventions. Says who? The few remaining sane justices on the Supreme Court. Read on and give three cheers that, for now, our Constitution is still alive and well.

The Supreme Court today delivered a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration over its plans to try Guantanamo detainees before military commissions, ruling that the commissions violate U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of war prisoners.

In a 5-3 decision, the court said the trials were not authorized by any act of Congress and that their structure and procedures violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949. [Read More]

This is bigger than just Guantanamo, this is about torture across the water board. Marty Lederman at SCOTUSblog explains why:

Even more importantly for present purposes, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva applies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment.

This almost certainly means that the CIA's interrogation regime is unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administration has been using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war crimes).

I'm guessing the president won't be using a signing statement to get around this ruling.

Think Progress takes things even further. Today's ruling may even impact the president's illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

Kevin Drum nicely sums up the significance of today's ruling:

Considering how deferential the court normally is to executive power in wartime, this is an extraordinary decision. The court pretty clearly feels that Bush has way overstepped his constitutional boundaries.

Now watch as the rubber-stamp Congress acts quickly to put the power, they so eagerly give away, back into the president's hands.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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  • Creatue said...

    I'm guessing the president won't be using a singing [sic] statement to get around this ruling.

    I predict that he just might.

    By Blogger The Xsociate, at 3:25 AM  

  • "singing" statement, sorry I'm embarrassed now.

    By Blogger creature, at 8:42 AM  

  • Don't be, I can be just as bad when it comes to my spelling on here. Especially when I am in a hurry to get my thoughts committed to the virtual pen and pad before they become lost to the ether.

    By Blogger The Xsociate, at 6:14 AM  

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