- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The Supreme Court on Monday provided some clarity to the national debate concerning the administration’s detention of enemy combatants, as it ruled on three separate cases. In Rasul et al. v. Bush, a 6-3 ruling allows foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to seek appeal in U.S. courts, stating that U.S. law “extends to aliens held in a territory over which the United States exercises plenary and exclusive jurisdiction, but not ultimate ‘sovereignty’.” In another case, Hamdi et al. v. Rumsfeld, the high court ruled that Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American of Saudi descent, did in fact possess due-process rights and must “receive notice of the factual basis for his classification” as an enemy combatant. A 5-4 ruling in Rumsfeld v. Padilla et al. dismissed the case of dirty bomb suspect Jose Padilla, saying that he filed his motion in a court that lacked jurisdiction. But there is a bright spot for Mr. Padilla: Courts must acknowledge Monday’s rulings in future proceedings.

As Justice Antonin Scalia noted in his dissent in Rasul, that decision foolishly could bring domestic courts into military affairs in a time of war. And as we have stated before, the taking of prisoners of war, and their detention until armed conflict has ceased, are both necessary and legal during times of armed conflict. We agree with Justice Scalia’s assessment of the decision as “clumsy” and “irresponsible.” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has announced plans to try Guantanamo detainees through military tribunals — a reasonable alternative. Rasul also leaves unanswered the question of processing enemy combatants detained on foreign soil in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, as it applies U.S. law to territories where it has some form of jurisdiction.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court’s decisions upheld the government’s power to detain enemy combatants, a victory for the Bush administration as the president fulfills his responsibility to protect this country. In the cases of Messrs. Hamdi and Padilla, we recognize the concerns that citizenship arouses in the fair detention of persons. We are confident, as White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan told The Associated Press, that the administration will develop a process that both addresses the court’s concerns and guards the president’s responsibility in matters of national security. There has always been the need for greater clarity in the war on terrorism.

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