Supreme Court Ruling Called 'Death Knell' for Gitmo

Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:33pm EDT
Font Size

( - The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts elicited strong reactions from across the political spectrum.

The 5-4 ruling was praised as the likely "death knell" for the prison camp in Cuba by human rights advocates but derided by supporters of the military as making "America's Founding Fathers turn over in their graves."

"Today's landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision has rightly reaffirmed the age-old, fundamental right for those detained to receive a fair and neutral hearing and to learn the specific reason for their detention -- and challenge it," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, in a news release.

"Until now, the Bush administration and Congress have been in a legalistic rain dance, hoping that some rationale for indefinite detention and the denial of habeas corpus would fall from the sky," Cox stated. "But the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling is a stark indictment of wrongdoing at Guantanamo.

"After more than six years of detention in inhuman conditions, the further detainment of those at Guantanamo without recognizable charge or fair trial is intolerable and unconstitutional," he added.

"Still, the U.S. Supreme Court decision is a limited victory for human rights," Cox added. "It will not stop U.S. officials from transferring detainees to places where their constitutional right to habeas corpus is not protected. It will not close Guantanamo. And it will likely not stop the Bush administration from finding devious ways to circumvent the law."

Noting that Thursday's ruling was the third setback the administration has received from the Supreme Court regarding detainment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cox asked: "President Bush -- how many more Supreme Court decisions do you need to do the right thing and end injustice?"

While in Rome during his final trip to Europe as president, Bush acknowledged during a news conference that "we'll abide by the court's decision" even though "that doesn't mean I have to agree with it."

"It was a deeply divided court, and I strongly agree with those who dissented," the president continued. "And that dissent was based upon their serious concerns about U.S. national security."

Bush said his administration will study the ruling. "We'll do this with this in mind -- to determine whether or not additional legislation might be appropriate so we can safely say to the American people: 'We're doing everything we can to protect you.'"

National security was also on the mind of Marty Conatser, national commander of the American Legion, who issued a statement of his own on Thursday.

"To suggest that foreign terrorists, who have never set foot in this country and respect no civilized laws, should enjoy the same rights under our Constitution as U.S. citizens must make America's Founding Fathers turn over in their graves," said Conatser, who pointed out that the Legion has sent delegations to examine conditions at the prison camp.

The nation's leading organization of veterans "found that the detainees were humanely treated, well fed and provided with medical care that surpasses what many veterans receive," he stated. "It would have been wonderful if the terrorists had treated Matt Maupin, the U.S. soldier captured and brutally murdered in Iraq, with the same respect."

However, Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, declared: "The Supreme Court finally said enough is enough and that detentions without end and without court review were unacceptable, illegal and unconstitutional.

"This may well mean the death knell of the Guantanamo prison camp," Ratner stated. "The Bush administration does not have the evidence to survive federal court challenges to the detentions, and what 'evidence' they may have is the product of torture and cruel treatment.

"It is now the job of the candidates to advocate dismantling the remainder of the unconstitutional practices of the 'war on terror,'" he added. "Torture, rendition, military commissions and secret detentions must come to an end. We hope this decision is the beginning of that end."

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, both Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) have promised to close down the facility at Guantanamo Bay if elected to the White House in November.

But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of that chamber's Judiciary and Armed Services Committees, called Thursday's ruling "both troubling and disappointing" because it rejected the Military Commissions Act, which he called a "carefully crafted law" that was approved by 65 senators.

Instead, the Court "gave itself a blank check to assume control of wartime detainee policy," Cornyn said. "This is both unacceptable and unprecedented."

"But the Supreme Court is not the final word," he stated. "Congress should revisit America's terrorist detention policies with additional legislation.

"This ruling by a very slim majority of the Court represents a dangerous and irresponsible precedent that will greatly burden our military and put our national security at risk," Cornyn added.

Make media inquiries or request an interview with Randy Hall.

Subscribe to the free daily E-brief.

E-mail a comment or news tip to Randy Hall.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.

mrc merch