The Supreme Court today handed Bush a major defeat on the question of how to handle the detainees at Gitmo. In the case of Hamdan v Rumsfeld, the Court ruled 5-4 that the President did not have the authority to try those detainees by military tribunals. The ruling was 5-3, with Chief Justice Roberts having to recuse himself because he was part of the DC Circuit Appeals Court panel whose ruling was under consideration. Kennedy joined with Ginsburg, Souter, Stevens and Breyer in the majority decision, with Alito, Thomas and Scalia in dissent.
It’s a very complex ruling that involves multiple statutory and constitutional questions. Among the statutory questions are whether the AUMF provides legal authority for such tribunals, whether the Uniform Code of Military Justice allows such tribunals for conspiracy charges, what the detainees’ legal status is under the Geneva Conventions, and much more. The constitutional questions involve separation of powers, the president’s constitutional powers as Commander in Chief, the proper role of the courts in such cases, and much more. This is going to take a while to digest and analyze.