After an email from Angel stressing her concern over the Supreme Court’s decision over giving the
terrorists unlawful combatants held at Guantanamo Bay rights equal to the American citizen, I thought I would look into exactly what the highest Court in the Land actually did.
I found the Court’s decision here and read through it. Strangely enough, the 135 pages was somewhat easy to read for a legal document, although there are multiple references to previous legal arguments both foreign and domestic. Not being a legal scholar (although I had considered a career in law before engineering), I’m going to leave the references alone and just focus on the content of the decision.
The Opinion of the Court on a decision of 5-4 basically gives the
terrorists unlawful combatants the right to habeas corpus, which is a petition filed with a court by a person who objects to his own or another’s detention or imprisonment. The petition must show that the court ordering the detention or imprisonment made a legal or factual error. The Opinion challenges and strikes down Section 7 of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006, which states (in part):
No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.
The MCA (found here) was drafted & passed by Congress and signed by President Bush. It has been criticized by the ACLU and others for unduly suspending the rights of a individual or individuals to habeas corpus and due process. However, what is interesting is that the MCA sets up military commissions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which is more restrictive than the normal civil code, and only targets those individuals who are determined to be unlawful enemy combatants. In case you were wondering about the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant:
A person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces);
We are a nation of laws. Our rights as guaranteed by the Constitution is unique in the world. Our system of government, while flawed, is the best in the world as to affording and affirming the rights of the individual citizen, and in some cases, the non-citizen. Should our laws be observed and enforced? Yes, they should.
I don’t think that the Opinion rendered by the Supreme Court is going to make as big an impact on the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay as we think it might as I doubt that many of the detainees will be able to apply habeas corpus to their cases. The way you get to Guantanamo Bay is to get caught with a rifle in your hands shooting at our soldiers or with blood on your hands (or both). I doubt very much that our troops would haphazardly pick up a person at random & hand him a ticket to Club Gitmo unless they had proof that this person was in it up to his eyeballs. But knowing our legal system, and the various shysters that will turn the law upside down in order to protect the “rights” of people committed to kill you and I, I’m not sure.
In his article “Justices Gone Wild,” Ellis Washington stated:
This decision tragically puts foreign terrorists’ rights above the safety of the American people.
Our government, all three branches, are charged with the safety and welfare of the American people first. This means safeguarding this country and its citizens from harm from any and all countries or individuals from anywhere in the world. And I hope that the rights of a killer don’t override my rights for pursuing health and happiness.
But there seems that there could be hope. From Real Clear Politics:
Besides, any releases are only speculative right now. To have a chance at freedom, a prisoner will have to make a plausible case that he’s innocent. The administration had already planned to try 80 of the detainees before military commissions, which suggests it has abundant evidence of guilt.
Presumably the Defense Department has information to show that many, if not all, of the others were connected to al-Qaida or other enemy forces. If the government presents incriminating evidence that the inmate can’t refute, a habeas corpus petition will be about as useful to him as a snowboard.
I can only hope that Justice Scalia’s statement in his dissenting statement can be taken to heart by those people who claim that this Opinion makes us, the American people, safer:
America is at war with radical Islamists. The enemy began by killing Americans abroad: 241 at the Marine barracks in Lebanon, 19 at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, 224 at our embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, and 17 on the USS Cole. On September 11, 2001, the enemy brought the battle to American soil, killing 2,749 at the Twin Towers in New York City, 184 at the Pentagon and 10 in Pennsylvania… It has threatened further attacks against our homeland; one need only walk about buttressed and barricaded Washington, or board a plane, to know the threat is serious… Last week, 13 of our countrymen in arms were killed.
Last, I believe that the Court failed to understand or remember it’s own history. From The American Thinker:
The late Justice Robert H. Jackson — who grew up in Frewsburg and lawyered in Jamestown — exemplified the patriotic canniness found in rural New York since the days of Fort Ticonderoga. His worldview was shaped by experience as Chief War Crimes Prosecutor at Nuremberg. In a 1950 opinion — tossed into the dustbin of history last week — Jackson denied habeas to a Nazi prisoner because there had been “no instance where a court has issued habeas corpus to an alien enemy who…has never been within its territorial jurisdiction.”
Shame on the Court…