Nation’s High Court says Detainees have Right to Challenge Detention

by Jennifer Johnson
NBC News

WASHINGTON - An enormous blow Thursday to the Bush Administration in its handling of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.  The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled those detainees have the constitutional right to have their cases heard in a U.S. court.  Many prisoners have been held at GITMO for over six years, without a trial.

Close to 300 prisoners are being held at Guantanamo Bay many since the days after 9-11.

Now the U.S. Supreme Court says those prisoners have a right to have their day in court.

Roughly 270 men are imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, or GITMO, classifed as enemy combatants with alleged ties to the Taliban or al Qaeda.  Many have been held since 9-11 with no formal charges.

Now the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled those suspects have the constitutional right to have their cases heard in a U.S. court.
 
The 5-to-4 decision marked the third setback for the Bush Administration which argued the detainees have no rights.

Constitutional Law professor Jonathan Turley says, "what the President asserted was his right not just to create his own court system, but to be able to execute people according to his own standards. What the Supreme Court said was that you cannot do that in a system like ours."

Writing for the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "the laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."

But President Bush, in Italy, said he disagrees with the decision and may take his case to Congress.

President Bush said, "we'll abide by the court's decision. That doesn't mean I have to agree with it."

Critics warn this is a victory for terrorists.  Charles Stimson is the former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for detainee affairs.

Charles Stimson of the Heritage Foundation says, "the loser is the next soldier who gets killed by a person who leaves GITMO."

But human rights groups dismiss the notion it makes our country less safe.

Stacy Sullivan of Human Rights Watch says, "we don't know exactly who is being held at Guantanamo Bay, because they haven't been charged, and if we're holding the wrong guys, it doesn't make us any safer."

Legal experts say this may be viewed as one of the court's most important rulings in history.

There will now be a scramble in federal court in Washington where nearly 200 lawsuits by GITMO detainees have been on hold for months, awaiting this decision.