A Setback for the State of Exception

For the dwindling but stout-hearted band of Bush loyalists, the creation of concentration camps and introduction of torture techniques never presented much of a problem—morally or legally. On the legal side, they reasoned, the president exercised commander-in-chief powers, and in wartime that let him do pretty much whatever he wanted. There were some limits, of course. One might be that his freedom of action had to be outside of the United States. Another that it couldn’t involve U.S. citizens. But with those two points resolved, Torquemada had better get out of the way.

For the critics, that was never right. The president was an actor in a constitutional system, they argued. He was constrained by the law, for that limitation—rule by law and not by a king—was the essence of the nation’s self-identification. In times of war, the constraints were certainly relaxed, but that didn’t mean there were no constraints.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, delivered a sweeping decision which rebukes the Bush Administration over its expansive views of wartime executive powers. In Boumediene and a series of companion cases, the Court was asked to decide whether the ultimate guarantor of the rule of law—the writ of habeas corpus–was available to persons in detention in Guantánamo. In the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congress had stripped the Great Writ. Congress did not do so explicitly, through the specific mechanism envisioned in the Constitution. Rather, it took a backdoor approach, providing a highly qualified and limited right of appeal as a substitute for habeas corpus. The Supreme Court’s majority found this to be unconstitutional.

The ruling was a resounding defeat, the third in succession (after the rulings in Rasul and Hamdan) for the Bush Administration’s war powers claims.

Closing the law-free zone

In one sense, the decision in Boumediene v Bush is a limited one. It does not order the release of a single prisoner – indeed, no prisoner has been released by court order in the six years that men have been held at Guantanamo. Nor does it address the scope of the President’s authority to hold individuals as “enemy combatants,” what procedural protections they are owed, or how they should be treated. It simply opens the courthouse door. Six years after Guantanamo opened, detainees will finally get their day in court.

But in every other sense, Thursday’s decision was groundbreaking. For the first time in its history, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a federal law enacted by Congress and signed by the President on an issue of military policy in a time of armed conflict. The Supreme Court has historically deferred to the President during times of conflict, especially when the President has acted with Congressional assent. For the first time, the court extended constitutional protections to noncitizens held outside US territory during wartime. And for only the third time in its history, the court declared unconstitutional a federal law restricting its own jurisdiction.

McCain and Obama split on justices’ Guantánamo ruling

The presidential candidates took differing positions Thursday on the Supreme Court decision granting foreign terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay a right to challenge their detention in civilian courts. Senator John McCain expressed concern about the ruling, while Senator Barack Obama lauded it.

Obama’s appeal in the Muslim world

US Senator Barack Obama represents a phenomenon that has drawn global attention and captivated the minds of Muslims around the world as he wages a spirited campaign to become the next president of the United States.

In spite of the campaign’s heated debate and some controversial rhetoric regarding Islam, large segments of the Muslim population here remain fascinated with the election and have become big fans of Senator Obama.

This level of support for an American presidential candidate is unprecedented in the Muslim world. That it comes amid an almost unanimous feeling of indignation and rage toward US foreign policy – particularly in Iraq and the Palestinian territories – makes it even more noteworthy.

Poll: Many in world look to US election for change

People around the globe widely expect the next American president to improve the country’s policies toward the rest of the world, especially if Barack Obama is elected, yet they retain a persistently poor image of the U.S., according to a poll released Thursday.

The survey of two dozen countries, conducted this spring by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, also found a growing despondency over the international economy, with majorities in 18 nations calling domestic economic conditions poor. In more bad news for the U.S., people shared a widespread sense the American economy was hurting their countries, including large majorities in U.S. allies Britain, Germany, Australia, Turkey, France and Japan.

Fox forced to address Michelle Obama headline

For the third time in less than three weeks, Fox News Channel has had to acknowledge using poor judgment through inappropriate references to Senator Barack Obama.

The network has released a statement saying it should not have referred to Mr. Obama’s wife, Michelle, as “Obama’s Baby Mama,’’ as it did on Wednesday in an on-screen headline commonly called a “chyron.”

“A producer on the program exercised poor judgment in using this chyron during the segment,” Bill Shine, a Fox News senior vice president, said in a statement.

McCains report more than $100,000 in credit card debt

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his wife reported more than $100,000 of credit card liabilities, according to financial disclosure documents released Friday.

The presidential candidate and his wife Cindy reported piling up debt on a charge card between $10,000 and $15,000. His wife’s solo charge card has between $100,000 and $250,000 in debt to American Express.

‘Israel Lobby’ professors get hospitable greeting in Israel

The first appearance in Israel by Stephen M. Walt and John J. Mearsheimer since the publication of their controversial book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, impressed a largely student audience at the Hebrew University, but left some faculty members wondering about their honesty.

A threatened boycott failed to have any effect, and the talk passed off with nothing more dramatic than some lively debate and repeated declarations from the pair that they are neither anti-Semitic nor Israel-haters.

Their presentation, “Is the ‘Israel lobby’ good for Israel?,” attracted 200 people. Mr. Walt told The Chronicle that they were visiting Israel at the invitation of the veteran left-wing campaigner Uri Avnery and decided to add a university appearance to their schedule.

‘India can bring balance to Middle East peace process’

Indirect talks are going on between Syria and Israel through Turkey. Israel is occupying the Golan Heights — which is Syrian territory — and obviously Syria wants it back. But what can you give Israel in return?

Assad: First, as you said, Syrian land is occupied by Israel so they have to give it back. We don’t have something to give but we have something to achieve together, which is peace. So, if both sides achieve a certain treaty, including giving back the Golan Heights, this means achieving peace. The other thing besides the land is discussing normal relations, water, security arrangements and all these details that are related to the concept of peace. This is something we achieve together, but Israel has the land and should give it back.

But it is said Israel wants Syria to abandon its friends in the region – Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran.

The Israelis have been talking about negotiations without pre-conditions. They cannot ask for conditions and they have not either. Second, Hamas is related to the Palestinian track and we are not responsible for that track. Hizbollah is part of the Lebanese track and we are not in Lebanon today. We are only talking about the Syrian track.

What is the Israeli compulsion to talk peace with you at this time?

The Israelis used to think that with time they are going to be stronger and any opposition to their policies will be weaker, but actually what happened was the opposite. Now, the Israelis learned that without peace they cannot live safely and Israel cannot be safe. I think this is true especially after the war on Lebanon and because of the result of that war inside the Israeli society; this is the main incentive for the Israelis to move toward peace.

Iraq lawmakers reject draft pact

New U.S. proposals have failed to overcome Iraqi opposition to a proposed security pact, two lawmakers said Thursday, and a senior government official expressed doubt an agreement could be reached before the U.S. presidential election in November.

Iraqi reinforcements, meanwhile, arrived in the oil-producing southern city of Amarah on Thursday as the military geared up for another crackdown against Shiite militia fighters, officials said.

The security agreement would provide a legal basis for the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of this year. Failure to strike a deal would leave the future of the American military presence here to the next administration.

Iraq war could cost taxpayers $2.7 trillion

As the Iraq war continues with no clear end in sight, the cost to taxpayers may balloon to $2.7 trillion by the time the conflict comes to an end, according to Congressional testimony.

In a hearing held by the Joint Economic Committee Thursday, members of Congress heard testimony about the current costs of the war and the future economic fallout from returning soldiers.

At the beginning of the conflict in 2003, the Bush administration gave Congress a cost estimate of $60 billion to $100 billion for the entirety of the war. But the battle has been dragging on much longer than most in the government expected, and costs have ballooned to nearly ten times the original estimate.

U.S. releases video of Pakistan airstrike

The United States military today confronted the sharpest criticism of an airstrike that left 11 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers dead on Tuesday night by releasing what it says is a video of the incident. (For background, see this article by Carlotta Gall and Eric Schmitt).

Rather than it being a “completely unprovoked and cowardly act” — a charge from a Pakistani military officer that was later leavened by other officials — the Pentagon hoped the video would persuade the public that the American air attack was a legitimate act of self-defense.

While it generally confirms aspects of both the American and the Taliban accounts of the border clash on Wednesday, the released video shows only part of the operation — the striking of three bombs, out of a total of about 12 that were used, officials said.

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