One branch of the Government appears to be functioning correctly, at least in this instance.
From ThinkProgress.org today:
The justices, in a 5-4 ruling Thursday, handed the Bush
administration its third setback at the high court since 2004 over its treatment of prisoners who are being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
It was not immediately clear whether this ruling, unlike the first two, would lead to prompt hearings for the detainees, some of whom have been
held more than 6 years. Roughly 270 men remain at the island prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.
SCOTUSBlog calls the ruling "a stunning blow to the Bush Administration in its war-on-terrorism policies" because it found that "Congress had not validly taken away habeas rights. If Congress wishes to suspend habeas, it must do so only as the Constitution allows — when the country faces rebellion or invasion."
Wow! Score 1 for The Constitution!
UPDATE: The full case and decision are available online (pdf) here at SCOTUSBlog
Glenzilla weighs in, emphasis his:
In its decision, the Court emphasized (and revived) some of the
most vital principles of our system of Government which have been trampled upon
and degraded over the last seven years (emphasis added):In ruling that the CSRTs woefully fail to provide the constitutionally guaranteed safeguards, the Court quoted Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 84: "The practice of arbitrary imprisonments, in all ages, is the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny." It is that deeply tyrannical practice -- implemented by the Bush administration and authorized by a bipartisan act of Congress -- which the U.S. Supreme Court, today, struck down.
The Framers' inherent distrust of government power was the driving force behind the constitutional plan that allocated powers among three independent branches. This design serves not only to make Government accountable but also to secure individual liberty. . . .
Where a person is detained by executive order rather than, say, after being tried and convicted in a court, the need for collateral review
is most pressing. . . . The habeas court must have sufficient authority
to conduct a meaningful review of both the cause of detention and the
Executive's power to detain. . . .
Security depends upon a sophisticated intelligence apparatus and the ability of our Armed Forces to act and interdict. There are further
considerations, however. Security subsists, too, in fidelity to
freedom's first principles. Chief among these are freedom from
arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to separation of powers. . . .
The laws and Constitution are designed to survive,
and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system, they are reconciled within the framework of law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, part of that law.
The Military Commissions Act of 2006 was -- and remains -- one of the great stains on our national political character. It was passed by a substantial majority in the Senate (65-34) with the support of every single Senate Republican (except Chafee) and 12 Senate Democrats. No filibuster was even attempted. It passed by a similar margin in the House, where 34 Democrats joined 219 Republicans to enact it. One of the most extraordinary quotes of the post-9/11 era came from GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, who said at the time that that the Military Commissions Act -- because it explicitly barred federal courts from hearing habeas corpus petitions brought by Guantanamo detainees -- "sets back basic rights by some 900 years" and was "patently unconstitutional on its face" -- and Specter then proceeded to vote for it.
Now I have zero expectation that the Executive Branch will perform properly, but erm, maybe the Senate and the House could?
That would be music to my ears: