Friday, June 13, 2008

A stunning blow to the tyranny of George W. Bush

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I didn't comment on yesterday's Supreme Court ruling that Gitmo detainees do in fact have habeas corpus rights and so have the right to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts, but there was a great deal of commentary from some of the best legal minds in the blogosphere (and from the usual suspects who as usual don't know what they're talking about, but such is life in the blogosphere), including Glenn Greenwald, Marty Lederman, and The Anonymous Liberal.

Let me quote extensively from Glenn's typically excellent post:

The Court's ruling was grounded in its recognition that the guarantee of habeas corpus was so central to the Founding that it was one of the few individual rights included in the Constitution even before the Bill of Rights was enacted. As the Court put it: "the Framers viewed freedom from unlawful restraint as a fundamental precept of liberty, and they understood the writ of habeas corpus as a vital instrument to secure that freedom." The Court noted that freedom from arbitrary or baseless imprisonment was one of the core rights established by the 13th Century Magna Carta, and it is the writ of habeas corpus which is the means for enforcing that right. Once habeas corpus is abolished -- as the Military Commissions Act sought to do -- then we return to the pre-Magna Carta days where the Government is free to imprison people with no recourse.

And here's A.L.:

I think the full extent of the Bush Administration's overreach on these issues is starting to become apparent. This is an area -- defining the limits of war powers -- where the Supreme Court would prefer not to tread. But because the Bush Administration has been so aggressive and unreasonable in its assertions of power, and because Congress has been so unwilling to stand up to the Administration and exert its own authority, the Court has been forced to issue a series of rulings rebuking the Administration (and in this case Congress as well). None of that had to happen.

I also recommend, as I always do in response to SCOTUS rulings, the extensive reporting of Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog. Lyle calls the ruling "a stunning blow."

Other posts worth reading come from, among others, Hilzoy (with a very helpful "Boumediene For Dummies"), Shaun Mullen, Daniel De Groot, Cernig, Howie Klein, and Emptywheel.

Make sure also to read the reaction from the Center for Constitutional Rights.


Like the CCR, and everyone else linked to above, I applaud the ruling. It is, at its core, a victory for justice, for the Constitution, for the principles upon which America is based.

I have my concerns, however -- not about the ruling but about the context of the ruling, a narrow 5-4 ruling with Kennedy, the swing justice, siding with the four liberal justices against the conservative bloc of Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. So as much as it was "a stunning blow" to the tyranny of George W. Bush, it was a blow that could have gone the other way -- and, if conservatives get their way, and if McCain wins and gets his way, will go the other way in the future. (There's some pessimistic perspective for you.)

I have much more to say about this, but I'll leave it at that for now.

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  • It's hard to be optimistic with that young and ideological gang of 4 still there, waiting for the saner members to die off.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 11:14 AM  

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