Supreme Court: Military Tribunals Not Acceptable genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Bush administration may not use military tribunals to try detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Chief Justice John Roberts recused himself from the case as he previously ruled in favor of the administration in a lower court decision. Read the full article here.

The 5-3 ruling means officials will have to come up with a new policy to prosecute at least 10 so-called "enemy combatants" awaiting trial -- it does not dispute the government's right to detain suspects.

The enemy combatant designation, according to the Bush administration, means the suspect can be held without charges in a military prison without the protections of the U.S. criminal justice system, such as the right to counsel --a status the court rejected.

The case was a major test of President Bush's authority as commander in chief in during war. Bush has aggressively asserted the power of the government to capture, detain, and prosecute suspected terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

"The military commission at issue is not expressly authorized by any congressional act," said Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority. The tribunals, he said, "must be understood to incorporate at least the barest of those trial protections that have been recognized by customary international law."

Clearly, the Court felt the President had exceeded his authority in determining how to treat enemy combatants as a part of the administration's "war on terror". The 5-3 ruling points out the importance of any future Supreme Court appointments. There is little doubt that President Bush would like to make an additional appointment that would likely create a 5-4 conservative majority that could jeopardize a number of prior rulings including Roe v. Wade. Since the Bush administration will be in a position to make appointments for the next two years, the outcome of the November midterm elections may well decide if the President will have the necessary votes to get another conservative appointment approved.

Daniel DiRito | June 29, 2006 | 8:40 AM
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