Monday, June 11, 2007

An Appeals Court Rebuke for Bush

It's nice when courts actually defend the Constitution, isn't it?

The Appeals Court for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the Bush administration cannot hold Ali al-Marri as an enemy combatant (as always, I refer you to the Times). Despite what one may think, this does not have sweeping consequences for federal law for two main reasons. First, it is an Appeals Court ruling, which means it only affects the Circuit in which the case was tried. Of course, diverging Circuit rulings often go to the Supreme Court for resolution, and I'm inclined to think that the Court would agree with this Circuit ruling, but that's not the point of this post. Second, al-Marri is the only known "enemy combatant" being held on the mainland, and the ruling does not attempt to rule on the constitutionality of enemy combatants being held off the mainland (i.e. this has no implications for combatants being held in Guantanamo Bay).

Perhaps needless to say (as I am devoting a summer and two semesters' worth of research to showing that expansive executive power is harmful to the Constitution and to the country), I agree wholeheartedly with this decision. The indefinite military detention of "enemy combatants" is blatantly contrary to the rule of law. Allowing the president to circumvent to justice system by declaring a detainee an "enemy combatant" is simply (at the risk of sounding like a five-year-old) unfair. If there is enough evidence for the executive to want to detain someone indefinitely, I think there should be enough evidence to prosecute that person through the criminal justice system. The indefinite detention of combatants suggests to me that they are being held indefinitely rather than being tried in the courts because there isn't enough evidence to prove guilt. In other words, it seems like the executive branch is simply saying, "trust us, these guys are bad." And I'm not saying that they aren't; I'm saying that if they are, their guilt ought to be proven in front of a court or they should be released.

I don't think that's too much to ask.

No comments: