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Avoiding a Pyrrhic Victory for Gitmo Detainees

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December 5, 2007

Last night Cecillia Wang wrote about the possible outcomes from today’s Supreme Court oral argument in Boumediene v. Bush and Al-Odah v. United States on the ACSBlog. She discusses how the high court may rule in favor of the petitioners, but the rule of law and the Constitution could still lose:

[I]f the Court rules in the Boumediene petitioners’ favor on narrow grounds limited to the precise facts of Guantanamo, the most pernicious effects of the D.C. Circuit’s error will go unaddressed. What if U.S. officials engage in horrific abuses in places other than Guantanamo? This is no idle speculation, given what we know about “extraordinary renditions” and CIA black sites, and in light of rumors of the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo.

Hopefully the court will heed the findings of groups such as the ACLU who have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in this case. In our brief, we argue that court should hold that the Constitution applies to all officials acting outside the U.S.-not just Guantanamo-unless it would be “impractical and anomalous” to do so. (The “impracticable and anomalous” test the ACLU suggests lower courts use in future habeas cases is based on a 1957 Supreme Court decision by Justice Harlan Black in Reid v. Covert.)

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