Liberty fans, rejoice!
A bi-partisan effort known as the Military Commissions Act of 2006 has been checked. Specifically, Section 7, the portion of the act that eliminated habeas corpus for enemy combatants, has been ruled as unconstitutional in a 5-4 decision. In short, detainees at Guantanamo have the right to challenge their detention in a Federal Court proceeding, rather than the painfully subpar military tribunals the feds were using to review the detentions. In the tribunals, defendants were not allowed a lawyer, government evidence was automatically assumed to be valid, and detainees weren't allowed to challenge (if they even got to know about) the evidence against them. Can you imagine if that were you charged with a crime? The Supreme Court determined that there was entirely too much room for error...and they're right.
In its beautifully written decision, the Court emphasized some very important values.
The Framers' inherent distrust of government power was the driving force behind the constitutional plan that allocated powers among three independent branches. This design serves not only to make Government accountable but also to secure individual liberty. . . .
Where a person is detained by executive order rather than, say, after being tried and convicted in a court, the need for collateral review is most pressing. . . . The habeas court must have sufficient authority to conduct a meaningful review of both the cause of detention and the Executive's power to detain. . . .
Security depends upon a sophisticated intelligence apparatus and the ability of our Armed Forces to act and interdict. There are further considerations, however. Security subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom's first principles. Chief among these are freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to separation of powers. . . .
The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system, they are reconciled within the framework of law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, part of that law.
This is especially good news in light of cases like this:
So, if these people can't sue over wrongful imprisonment, at least now, they can try to prevent being wrongfully imprisoned to begin with.Here’s more on the case of Khaled al-Masri, the German citizen who says he was kidnapped by the CIA, whisked off to Afghanistan, tortured, then dumped in rural Albania after the CIA realized they had an innocent man. The Supreme Court threw out al-Masri’s lawsuit against the U.S. government last year, siding with the Bush administration’s claims that such a suit would expose “state secrets,” a bullshit doctrine perpetrated on a fraud that the Bush administration uses quite frequently to cover up its mistakes. Note that to date, no government has denied that al-Masri was abducted and tortured, or that he’s innocent.
The U.S. and German governments are only arguing that holding anyone accountability for it would compromise national security.