Supreme Court Strikes Down President Bush's Threats to American Civil Liberties
All freedom-loving Americans should salute the courage of 86-year-old Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the majority opinion in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that was announced on Thursday. The ruling boldly and irrecovably struck down the military tribunals Bush set up to try Guantanamo detainees. But of far more importance, according to Jack M. Balkin, The Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment and Director, The Information Society Project at Yale Law School, this decision “effectively undermines the Administration’s strongest claims about Presidential power.” Further, this Supreme Court ruling may well constitute the legal framework necessary to halt the more egregious of Bush’s civil liberties-infringing programs—like warrantless wiretapping and holding terrorism suspects without trial.
Not any longer! A lot of those legal opinions became inoperative as of 10 a.m. Thursday morning.
And without the cover of the now-discredited theory of sweeping unilateral executive power, the criminal law of the United States is again in control. Walter Dellinger, Professor of Law at Duke University , described this Supreme Court decision as, " The most important decision on presidential power. Ever." He went on to explain:
Today the court holds that common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to the conflict against al-Qaida. As Justice Kennedy expressly notes in his (controlling) concurring opinion, Section 2441 of the U.S. Criminal Code defines a "war crime" as including any conduct "which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva." And the statute makes any "war crime"—when committed by any member of the U.S. Armed Forces, or against any member of the U.S. Armed Forces, or against a U.S. national—punishable by life imprisonment, or in certain cases, by death. Now that the fig leaf of untenable legal opinions has been stripped away, there will be great resistance by covered officials to complying with directives that may violate such a serious federal criminal statute.
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