So the Justices on the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the detentions of Hamdi and Padilla yesterday. For those of you who don’t know who these people are, you can read Dahlia Lithwick’s amazing summary of the case and oral arguments here. The short version is that the two men are American citizens who have been held for the last 2 years, as enemy combatants, without any charges being brought against them. The government holds that the President has the power to hold them forever without ever charging them. The petitioners, plus an alliance of every group even vaguely concerned with civil rights has said that that dog just won’t hunt. In fact, go read the link as Dahlia has said most of what I want to say, and far more eloquently.
Now, I always feel that when you have the right-wing Cato Institute and the People for the American Way on the same side of an issue, not to mention Amnesty International, then whoever’s against them is probably on the wrong side. But more than that, I do feel that this may well be the most important case to be brought before the court in years.
Many of the greatest abuses of justice have occured when goverments, out of the purest of motives, have curtailed fundamental civil rights. We saw the internment of thousands of American citizens during World War II based simply on the fact that they were of Japanese descent. That was wrong then, and I can only pray that the Justices will not rule that it is correct now.
But I do know that the court is traditionally very bad at protecting civil rights during times of crisis. And I fear.