Blog of Rights

ACLU Legal Director Steve Shapiro on the Boumediene Decision

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 12:34pm

Our Legal Director, Steve Shapiro, comments on the Boumediene decision:

Today's decision forcefully repudiates the essential lawlessness of the Bush administration's failed Guantánamo 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 Guantánamo, end indefinite detention without charge and restore the rule of law.
Salon's Glenn Greenwald, a Friend-of-the-ACLU (and Membership Conference speaker!), has posted his analysis of the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision.
In upholding the right of habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees, the Court found that the "Combatant Status Review Tribunals" process ("CSRT") offered to Guantanamo detainees — established by the John-McCain-sponsored Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 — does not constitute a constitutionally adequate substitute for habeas corpus. To the contrary, the Court found that such procedures — which have long been criticized as sham hearings due to the fact that defendants cannot have a lawyer present, government evidence is presumptively valid, and defendants are prevented from challenging (and sometimes even knowing about) much of the evidence against them — "fall well short of the procedures and adversarial mechanisms that would eliminate the need for habeas corpus review." Those grave deficiencies in the CSRT process mean that "there is considerable risk of error" in the tribunals' conclusions.

The Court's ruling was grounded in its recognition that the guarantee of habeas corpus was so central to the Founding that it was one of the few individual rights included in the Constitution even before the Bill of Rights was enacted.

…In ruling that the CSRTs woefully fail to provide the constitutionally guaranteed safeguards, the Court quoted Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 84: "The practice of arbitrary imprisonments, in all ages, is the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny." It is that deeply tyrannical practice — implemented by the Bush administration and authorized by a bipartisan act of Congress — which the U.S. Supreme Court, today, struck down.
You can listen to Glenn speak at the Membership Conference about the abuse of executive power in this podcast.

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