Supreme Court Condemns Abuse of Power with Guantanamo Decision

The Bush administration has been pushing the legal envelope, testing and frequently exceeding the law's limits with its claims of executive power.

But last week, as the Supreme Court ended its 2005 term, it sent an unequivocal message to the Executive Branch on the issue of detainee trials at Guantánamo: In a 5-3 decision, the Court ruled that the military commissions created by the president violate both United States law and the Geneva Conventions.

As we celebrate the founding of the nation, we can take heart in the Court's affirmation of our bedrock system of checks and balances. The current administration prefers to act outside the law and without judicial scrutiny. The Court properly rejected that anti-democratic view with its Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision, in which the ACLU filed an amicus brief.

The government's misuse of the military tribunals is just one in a series of abuses of power, abuses that include illegal NSA spying on Americans, secret CIA kidnappings and secret FBI demands for personal records from libraries and other institutions. As the summer progresses, the ACLU and its members and supporters will continue to work in the courts, on Capitol Hill and in local communities across the nation to uphold the rule of law in the face of these latest attacks.

It's a transitional time for the Supreme Court, after the death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. While it's too early to say what influence Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito will ultimately have on the Court, the most important vote may be Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Kennedy now holds the balance of power on a closely divided Court. Kennedy's influence is apparent in recent rulings on partisan redistricting in Texas, the death penalty and federalism, among other issues. And his role is likely to be even more pivotal next term, given upcoming arguments on affirmative action and reproductive freedom.

I hope you'll take a moment to read our analysis of the first year of the Roberts Court and learn more about our involvement in the major civil liberties cases from the 2005 term. As Legal Director, I am extraordinarily proud of the work of our talented legal staff. That work is bolstered every day by your involvement, your efforts, and your contributions.

For the latest ACLU news from the Supreme Court, go to:

With regards and thanks for your support for our work,

Steven Shapiro, ACLU

Steven R. Shapiro
Legal Director American Civil Liberties Union


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