Following up on my post yesterday about the Obama administration’s court filing in the case of Rasul v. Rumsfeld — in which four British former prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are seeking damages for being tortured, humiliated, abused and indefinitely detained without charge or access to counsel — SCOTUSblog today points to a few key points and phrases in the government’s brief that are worth repeating here.
Not only is the Obama administration arguing that government officials involved in developing policies that led to the torture and indefinite detention without charge of Guantanamo detainees should all be immune from suit because the detainees’ rights weren’t clear at the time, but the government is arguing that, based on a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that “aliens held at Guantanamo do not have due process rights” — even now.
Moreover, the government urges the court to ban all lawsuits claiming constitutional violations by U.S. military officials. Such lawsuits, the Justice Department argues, “would enmesh the courts in military, national security, and foreign affairs matters that are the exclusive province of the political branches.”
This appears to be yet another argument for sweeping executive authority, unfettered by the judiciary. Put another way, it’s an argument to allow the political branches of government — and in particular, the president — to be declared not accountable under the law.
In a more recent development, the Justice Department said it has “withdrawn” the enemy combatant definition for Guantanamo detainees. But, it says it still has the right to hold them there indefinitely, so long as the government believes they provided “substantial” assistance to the Taliban or al-Qaeda.
I’ll have more on this soon.
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