Habeas Corpus is still in effect? Who knew?
A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Guantanamo Bay detainees can challenge their extended imprisonment in federal court, and struck down as inadequate an alternative review system that Congress set up.
Repudiating a key tenet of the Bush administration’s war-on-terrorism policy, the court’s 5-4 majority concluded that foreigners held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, retain the same rights as U.S. residents to seek writs of habeas corpus. The landmark ruling will permit several hundred accused enemy combatants to see the evidence that justifies their captivity.
“Some of these petitioners have been in custody for the past six years with no definitive judicial determination as to the legality of their detention,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. “Their access to the writ is necessary to determine the lawfulness of their status, even if, in the end, they do not obtain the relief they seek.”
Score one for some sort of restraint, for once. Now, this being a ruling that clashes with the Jack Bauer view of justice, the overly dramatic “doomsday scenario” criticism will be here in 3…2…1…
The court’s conservative wing — comprising Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — dissented, at times with sharp words of its own.
“The nation will live to regret what the court has done today,” Scalia warned. (emphasis mine)
This is a sitting member of the highest court in the land, essentially accusing 5 of his colleagues of sending the US towards suicide. Think about that for a moment. He’s not saying “I think you’re wrong, and this is why” here, he’s unsubtly hinting The Downfall of Western Civilization has been triggered by allowing people being held to ask about the evidence. This is a concept that has existed in one form or another for at least 600 fucking years, yet its application gets Scalia going all Nationalist Chicken Little on us.
Nino needs his diaper changed.
Honestly, the entire “detainee” thing is muddled and ridiculous at best, somehow both blatantly criminal and plainly ineffective AND contradictory at the same time. If as the war-mongers say these people are all so obviously scumbags that they don’t deserve to be able to defend themselves, then why the hell are they even being detained? If you sincerely believe they’re all guilty then just shoot them in the head and get it over with. The only reason to capture and just hold would be that there is something to prove, and as there’ve already been horror stories of people being detained on mistaken or outright falsefied pretenses,
that explodes the assumption of danger from saying “let’s find out”.
Edit: via Reuters, more words of the unhinged:
Chief Justice John Roberts in dissent wrote that the American people “lost a bit more control over the conduct of this nation’s foreign policy to unelected, politically unaccountable judges.”
And Justice Antonin Scalia wrote of the ruling, “Most tragically it sets our military commanders the impossible task of proving in a civilian court … that evidence supports the confinement of each and every prisoner.”
John: you are an unelected, politically unaccountable judge! This issue came to your court, you discussed it, you decided. Your side just lost. When the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is rhetorically ignoring his own status in order to use a tired right-wing trope about judges being an inherent class of bleeding-hearts, there is only one thing you can say to him — “WTF are you smoking, and could you pass it here?”.
As for Scalia’s lament about military commanders in a civilian court, that says more than he thinks. The solution is clear: stop making gray areas where there aren’t any. Either it’s a military/war matter and deadly force is the tool, or it’s a criminal matter and the tool is the law, period.