Enemies in Court

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 3, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Enemies in Court


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Do enemy combatants have due process rights under the Constitution? Do the detention of persons classified as such at Guantanamo Bay deny such rights? Should the courts be able to overrule the president and federal agencies when they classify persons as enemy combatants and deem them undeserving of protection? And are those persons entitled to see the intelligence information upon which U.S. authorities based their judgment? Those are some of the questions the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia addressed in a far-reaching opinion Monday. Though only the district court opinion on the subject, on all four questions, the court said yes.

On the first two, U.S. District Senior Judge Joyce Hens Green, a Carter appointee, said such aliens are indeed guaranteed due- process rights and that their rights are being violated at Guantanamo. On the third, Judge's Green's answer was that yes, a court may overrule even a president who determines on the basis of intelligence information that a suspect is an "enemy combatant" and should not enjoy rights under U.S. law. And on the fourth, Judge Green apparently thinks the Guantanamo detainees are entitled to access sensitive U.S. intelligence information.

That decision strikes us as wrong-headed, and directly contradicts District Judge Richard Leon's ruling last month which threw out similar suits by detainees. Judge Leon's decision is a long way from 1950, when the Supreme Court said no on all accounts. Back then, in Johnson v. Eisentrager, the court held that Nazi agents captured in China did not enjoy constitutional protections under U.S. law. The German nationals in question were captured in China and convicted by a U.S. military commission. They were in service to a foreign power hostile to the United States, the court reasoned, and therefore did not deserve protection under U.S. law.

It's not hard to see why the reasoning in Johnson v. Eisentrager is preferable to Judge Green's.

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