Justices, 5-3, Broadly Reject Bush Plan to Try Detainees
By LINDA GREENHOUSE
Published: June 30, 2006
WASHINGTON, June 29 — The Supreme Court on Thursday repudiated the Bush administration's plan to put Guantánamo detainees on trial before military commissions, ruling broadly that the commissions were unauthorized by federal statute and violated international law.
"The executive is bound to comply with the rule of law that prevails in this jurisdiction," Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the 5-to-3 majority, said at the end of a 73-page opinion that in sober tones shredded each of the administration's arguments, including the assertion that Congress had stripped the court of jurisdiction to decide the case.
A principal flaw the court found in the commissions was that the president had established them without Congressional authorization.
The decision was such a sweeping and categorical defeat for the administration that it left human rights lawyers who have pressed this and other cases on behalf of Guantánamo detainees almost speechless with surprise and delight, using words like "fantastic," "amazing" and "remarkable."
From my perspective, perhaps the most relevant point was made by Stevens. The emphasis is mine.
Justice Stevens said the historical origin of military commissions was in their use as a "tribunal of necessity" under wartime conditions. "Exigency lent the commission its legitimacy," he said, "but did not further justify the wholesale jettisoning of procedural protections."