Supreme Court: Bush overstepped bounds on Guant

In a 5-3 vote, the court says military trials comport with neither U.S. law nor the Geneva Conventions.

Published June 29, 2006 2:36PM (EDT)

The Supreme Court just ruled 5-3 that George W. Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military trials for detainees at Guantánamo Bay -- and that procedures the Bush administration had intended to use violate both U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions. While the court said that the Bush administration may hold detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan "for the duration of active hostilities," it said that the president must "comply with the rule of law" if he wishes to have Hamdan or other detainees tried and subjected to criminal punishment.

Justice Anthony Kennedy joined John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and David Souter in the majority. Writing in a separate opinion, Kennedy said that trial by military commission "raises separation-of-powers concerns of the highest order," and that the "concentration of power (in the executive branch) puts personal liberty in peril of arbitrary action by officials, an incursion the Constitution's three-part system is designed to avoid."

Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. Chief Justice John G. Roberts did not participate in the decision.

People for the American Way, which filed an amicus brief in the case, is already hailing the decision as a "major defeat" for the Bush administration and a "victory for the rule of law." The White House had no immediate comment.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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