Monday, June 28, 2004

Supreme Court to Bush: "You're NOT Emporer of the Universe"

The Supreme Court today put a serious crimp in El Presidente's argument that he should get to do whatever he wants because God is guiding his every action.

"The Bush administration contends that as 'enemy combatants,' the men being held at Guantanamo Bay since the Afghanistan war are not entitled to the usual rights of prisoners of war set out in the Geneva Conventions. Enemy combatants are also outside the constitutional protections for ordinary criminal suspects, the government has claimed. The administration argued that the president alone has authority to order their detention, and that courts have no business second-guessing that decision."

But today the Supremes refused to endorse that central claim of the White House: That the government has authority to seize and detain suspected terrorists or their protectors and indefinitely deny access to courts or lawyers while interrogating them. Foreign-born men held at Guantanamo can have their day in U.S. courts, the justices said.

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." Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU, called the rulings "a strong repudiation of the administration's argument that its actions in the war on terrorism are beyond the rule of law and unreviewable by American courts."

The court did back the administration in one important respect, ruling that President Bush has the authority to seize and hold a U.S. citizen, in this case Louisiana-born Yaser Esam Hamdi, as an alleged enemy combatant, BUT that Hamdi can use American courts to argue that he is being held illegally.

The 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. Padilla must refile a lawsuit challenging his detention in a lower court. But from the looks of this ruling today, it looks likely that the lower court is going to rule that Padilla has every right in the word to be heard by a judge.

All of these guys may be just the worst human beings alive. That's never been the issue. The issue has been the White House's contention that it can do whatever it wanted to do without any judge or any court interferring. The Supremes put an end to that particular arrogance today.

At least we can hope this is an end of that strain of mind virus.

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