The Supreme Court has denied cert in two important cases, one an appeal of the dismissal of a suit by Jose Padilla against Donald Rumsfeld for his military detention and one an appeal by a Gitmo detainee who won his habeas corpus hearing at the district court level and had that decision reversed by the appeals court.
Four years after pronouncing that detainees who face no charges have a right to challenge their ongoing confinement, the justices rejected appeals arguing that the federal appeals court in Washington has largely ignored the high court’s command.
The appeals court has not ordered the release of any detainee and has reversed several lower court release orders. In addition, some appellate judges have been unusually critical of the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in Boumediene v. Bush.
There are 169 foreigners remaining at Guantánamo, including five men who are facing a capital murder tribunal for their alleged roles in the Sept. 11 attacks.
After the Boumediene decision granted the right to habeas corpus hearings, most of the detainees who got hearings got rulings from the district court that their continued detention was unwarranted. More than two dozen were ordered freed by federal judges, but those decisions have been overturned by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court’s refusal to review those decisions leaves Boumediene essentially overturned without them officially doing so.
Jose Padilla is an American citizen, but he was locked up in a military prison in the U.S., not at Gitmo. He was held for years without being charged and while being tortured. The federal courts ordered the Bush administration to charge him or release him and they charged with entirely different things than they had used to justify his indefinite detention and he was convicted. But he’s tried to sue Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and John Yoo, but the courts have prevented him from doing so.
The ACLU decried the court, saying the justices’ “refusal to consider Jose Padilla’s case leaves in place a blank check for government officials to commit any abuse in the name of national security, even the brutal torture of an American citizen in an American prison.”
This has been the problem all along. Every single legal challenge involving torture or unconstitutional surveillance has been dismissed either on standing grounds or the State Secrets Privilege. The result is an essentially lawless executive branch that can do anything it wants and the victims can never get a ruling on the merits from a court of law.