Supreme Court: Guantanamo Detainees Have Rights in Court

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain also reacted to today's decision, saying that although he had not yet had a chance to read it, it concerned him.

"These are unlawful combatants. They are not American citizens, and I think we should pay attention to Justice Roberts' opinion in this decision," McCain said. "But it is a decision that the Supreme Court has made; now we need to move forward. As you know, I always favored closing Guantanamo Bay and I still think we ought to do that."


"The Court's decision today will deepen and complicate an already ridiculously complex and disordered morass of litigation brought by foreign terrorists against our government," said Bradford Berenson, former associate counsel to President Bush from 2001 to 2003. "The decision will magnify the already heavy litigation burdens on our government and, because it is limited to detainees held at Guantanamo, may increase the pressure on the government to close that facility. The available alternatives -- bringing al Qaeda leaders such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the continental United States or sending them back to detention facilities closer to war zones -- are less desirable and less safe for everyone. Such are the perverse and unintended consequences when the courts fail to afford appropriate deference to the political branches in sensitive national security matters."

At the American Civil Liberties Union, legal director, Steven R. Shapiro, said, "Today's decision forcefully repudiates the essential lawlessness of the Bush administration's failed Guantanamo policy. It should also mark the beginning of the end of the military commission process, which permits the use of coerced evidence and hearsay and thus cannot survive the constitutional scrutiny that today's decision demands. It is time to close Guantanamo, end indefinite detention without charge and restore the rule of law."

The case is one of the most significant wartime cases in a half century. It was filed on behalf of Lakmar Boumediene and other detainees who the United States is currently holding at the Guantanamo Bay naval base. Oral arguments came replete with references to wartime legal issues dating back centuries as attorneys sparred with justices over the rights of the 270 foreign nationals currently held at Guantanamo who were captured both on and off the battlefield in an unconventional war.

Lawyers for the detainees argued that the men have a right to challenge their detention in federal courts. They claimed that the Military Commissions Act, which Congress passed in 2006 to create a special legal system for detainees, denied them the right to fair and impartial hearings, proper legal representation and the ability to hear all the evidence against them.

The Bush administration had argued that the legislation struck the right balance between detainees' rights and the need to ensure that the detainees did not return to the battlefield to continue to fight against the United States.

Solicitor General Paul Clement, arguing for the Bush administration, said, "It really does represent the best efforts to prosecute the global war on terror."

In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the administration decided quickly to send detainees to Guantanamo, believing that if the detainees were held off U.S. soil they would not get access to U.S. courts.

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