The [ruling] that those held at Guantanamo Bay have a constitutional right to challenge their detentions in federal court is a welcome victory for due process and the rule of law. It completes a signal and totally avoidable failure by President Bush, who will leave office with the nation's regime for holding al-Qaeda combatants in shambles. A 5 to 4 majority of the court correctly concluded that habeas corpus, the ancient right to contest one's detention, extends to those held at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay. Although it only leases the property from Cuba, the United States exerts complete legal and military control over the base; those held there have nowhere to challenge their detentions other than U.S. courts. To have forbidden the detainees access to those courts would have left the executive branch almost unfettered power to hold people indefinitely -- a proposition that is untenable.
The LA Times:
The 5-4 decision also broke important new ground. In 2004, the court held that detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo, a de facto U.S. territory, could challenge their confinement in a U.S. court under a federal habeas corpus statute. Rather than accept that ruling, Congress obliged the administration by passing legislation making it clear that the habeas statute didn't protect the detainees and purporting to strip federal courts of jurisdiction to hear such appeals. It was a craven capitulation to an administration that has made cutting legal corners the trademark of its anti-terrorism policy.
Bush can rail against the Supreme Court or he can honor the spirit as well as the letter of this ruling and work with Congress to reform a system that has delayed justice for detainees and dishonored America in the eyes of the world. And he should do what both of the men aspiring to succeed him have promised to do - close Guantanamo.
Justice Kennedy: "To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this Court, say 'what the law is.' While some delay in fashioning new procedures is unavoidable, the costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody."
Justice Scalia: “It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed. The nation will live to regret what the court has done today.” He said the decision was based not on principle, “but rather an inflated notion of judicial supremacy.”
Chief Justice Roberts: The decision represented “overreaching” that was “particularly egregious” and left the court open to “charges of judicial activism.” The decision “is not really about the detainees at all, but about control of federal policy regarding enemy combatants.” The public will “lose a bit more control over the conduct of this nation’s foreign policy to unelected, politically unaccountable judges.”
Barack Obama: "Today's Supreme Court decision ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice, while also protecting our core values. The Court's decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo - yet another failed policy supported by John McCain. This is an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus. Our courts have employed habeas corpus with rigor and fairness for more than two centuries, and we must continue to do so as we defend the freedom that violent extremists seek to destroy."
Senator John McCain: "The United States Supreme Court yesterday rendered a decision which I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country."