John Woo of the Wall Street Journal revisits the recent splintered & contentious* 5-4 ruling, Boumediene v. Bush, which granted constitutional habeas corpus to the guests at club gitmo.
First out the window went precedent. Under the writ of habeas corpus, Americans (and aliens on our territory) can challenge the legality of their detentions before a federal judge. Until Boumediene, the Supreme Court had never allowed an alien who was captured fighting against the U.S. to use our courts to challenge his detention.
In World War II, no civilian court reviewed the thousands of German prisoners housed in the U.S. Federal judges never heard cases from the Confederate prisoners of war held during the Civil War. In a trilogy of cases decided at the end of World War II, the Supreme Court agreed that the writ did not benefit enemy aliens held outside the U.S. In the months after the 9/11 attacks, we in the Justice Department relied on the Supreme Court's word when we evaluated Guantanamo Bay as a place to hold al Qaeda terrorists.
Judicial micromanagement will now intrude into the conduct of war. Federal courts will jury-rig a process whose every rule second-guesses our soldiers and intelligence agents in the field. A judge's view on how much "proof" is needed to find that a "suspect" is a terrorist will become the standard applied on the battlefield. Soldiers will have to gather "evidence," which will have to be safeguarded until a court hearing, take statements from "witnesses," and probably provide some kind of Miranda-style warning upon capture. No doubt lawyers will swarm to provide representation for new prisoners.
The only real hope of returning the Supreme Court to its normal wartime role rests in the November elections. Sometimes it is difficult to tell Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain apart on issues like campaign finance or global warming. But they have real differences on Supreme Court appointments. Mr. Obama had nothing but praise for Boumediene, while Mr. McCain attacked it and promised to choose judges like Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both dissenters.
Everyone & their dog talks about it here.
Choose wisely, voters.
*I borrowed this hyperbole from the Associated (with terrorists) Press who seem to enjoy tossing it into 'news' stories about court decisions which the AP disapproves of.