Bush gets "severe rebuke" from high court

Published June 28, 2004 7:00PM (EDT)

Salon will have more on the Supreme Court's major rulings today concerning the scope of the president's powers in the war on terrorism -- but it's becoming more clear as the day goes on and these three rulings are read more closely, that the Bush administration was dealt quite a blow.

The difference between the AP's morning coverage of the Hamdi ruling, for example, and what is currently on SCOTUSblog, is quite striking.

AP headline: "Bush Can Hold Citizens Without Charges"

"The Supreme Court ruled narrowly Monday that Congress gave President Bush the power to hold an American citizen without charges or trial, but said the detainee can challenge his treatment in court. The 6-3 ruling sided with the administration on an important legal point raised in the war on terrorism."

And from SCOTUSblog, produced by the folks over at the law firm of Goldstein & Howe, who blogged last week from the Supreme Court lawyers' lounge, then were told to take it outside the building. They blogged outside the court today, but still managed to do it pretty much in real time as these major cases were handed down. Their verdict was quite different from the AP's initial read.

SCOTUSblog headline:"No presidential monopoly on war powers"

"The Supreme Court's first review of the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism may force a fundamental reordering of constitutional priorities, especially in the way the government may deal with individuals caught up in that war. Amid all the writing by the Justices in today's three historic rulings, no sentence stands out as vividly as this one, 'A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens.'"

"Given the almost limitless claims to presidential power that the administration has been making in court cases and other forums since soon after the September 11, 2001, attacks, that statement -- and all that it stands for in the new rulings -- must be taken as a severe rebuke."

". In historic terms, the new rulings are at least as serious a setback as the Executive branch suffered in 1952 when the Court, in the midst of the Korean War, struck down President Truman's seizure of U.S. steel mills to keep them open to produce war materiel. (Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer)

"History and common sense," the Court said today, "teach us that an unchecked system of detention carries the potential to become a means of oppression and abuse of others who do not present. . .an immediate threat."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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