How Congress Can Keep Us Safe from Court

The Taliban is celebrating in the mountains of Afghanistan. Not because of a military victory or successful terrorist attack in the name of Jihad, but because of a decision by the United States Supreme Court. Last week, the court decided that habeas corpus, which is the right to question one’s detainment, applies to enemy combatants captured overseas in the War on Terror and held at Guantanamo Bay. And, furthermore, that appointed civilian, not military, federal judges are best suited to determine their habeas corpus petitions. Our enemies know that the Boumediene v. Bush ruling has made our nation less secure, why doesn’t the Supreme Court?

The right of habeas corpus was not granted to the soldiers of the Axis Powers captured in World War II or even to Confederate soldiers captured in the Civil War. Are the detainees at Guantanamo Bay more deserving of rights because they seek to kill and terrorize American armed forces and civilians alike? Or is it because they do not wear a uniform? The Supreme Court of the United States has endangered innocent American lives so Guantanamo Bay detainees can experience the rights and freedoms of the society they seek to destroy.

American soldiers and Marines risk their lives daily to find and capture the most dangerous, ruthless terrorists. By allowing civilian judges inexperienced in terrorism and national security to have the final say on whether a detainee should be released, the Supreme Court has rewarded the valiant efforts of our servicemen and women by ensuring that they will face these terrorists again on the field of battle, or worse, on our nation’s streets.  

The Founding Fathers did not intend for enemy combatants, captured abroad, and held outside U.S. borders to possess the same rights as Americans. Any assertion to the contrary is ludicrous. Decision-making powers during a time of war rest with the executive and legislative branches. And, suspension of habeas corpus is one of these powers. As Justice Scalia wrote in his dissenting opinion, “What competence does the court have to second-guess the judgment of Congress and the President on such a point? None whatever.”

Although the founders did put into place a system of checks and balances to prevent abuse of power by any one branch, the Supreme Court must wait until legislation is at least given a test run—this did not happen here. The court acted prematurely. In 2006, Congress put a process into place to hear the appeals of suspected terrorists detained in Guantanamo Bay. The Supreme Court did not believe this procedure was worthy of the opportunity to prove effective or ineffective. In last week’s overreaching decision, the court baselessly concluded that the current system was not sufficient.

The Boumediene v. Bush decision is wrong. Unfortunately however, it will not be overturned in the near future. I have therefore introduced legislation, the Boumediene Jurisdiction Correction Act, which would grant military courts, with expertise in terrorism, detainees, and national security, exclusive, original jurisdiction to determine the habeas corpus petitions of Guantanamo Bay detainees. In the court’s majority opinion, the current system was deemed inadequate as a substitute for habeas corpus. The Boumediene Jurisdiction Correction Act satisfies this requirement as it grants the detainees the same rights given under a civil habeas corpus petition. In addition, the appellate process of military courts will give the Supreme Court final review of detainees’ habeas corpus petitions while ensuring that military personnel, rather than a civil court with appointed judges, will be the adjudicators. This way, the American military can continue to keep us safe from foreign terrorists and Congress can keep us safe from the Supreme Court.