In a 5-3 decision this morning (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld
), the United States Supreme Court ruled that neither Congress's post-9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force
, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), nor the inherent powers of the President gave the President the authoirty to establish military tribunals on Guantanamo Bay to try and convict alleged enemy combatants in the war on terror. The Court found the commissions illegal under both military justice law and the Geneva Convention.
Justice Stevens wrote the majority opinion, supported in its entirety by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Souter. In a separate opinion, Justice Kennedy joined enough of it to count. Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas all dissented, with the Chief Justice sitting out because he ruled in this case when it was previously heard by the D.C. Circuit.
I will update this space once the written opinions are available online, but wanted to open up the discussion now. You can read some background about the case via this link, and read the oral argument transcript here.
[first update]: Read about what the Geneva Convention ruling apparently means for interrogations and torture.
[second update]: The Opinion of the Court is now online. It is 185 pages long.
[final update] So what's it all about? We have a President, not a King. Here's what Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kennedy and Souter had to say in a brief concurrence:
The Court’s conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a “blank check.” . . . Nothing prevents the President from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary. Where, as here, no emergency prevents consultation with Congress, judicial insistence upon that consultation does not weaken our Nation’s ability to deal with danger. To the contrary, that insistence strengthens the Nation’s ability to determine — through democratic means — how best to do so. The Constitution places its faith in those democratic means. Our Court today simply does the same.